Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Natural Resources

Major Professor

David Ostermeier

Committee Members

Sherry Cable, J. Mark Fly, Robert E. Jones


Today’s natural resource problems are more complex than ever and many have yet to be effectively addressed in the United States by regulations or management policies. The challenges presented by these problems require new approaches to the governance of natural resources in the United States. These approaches must recognize that the governance of natural resources is not only a technical task, but a social process. The management of natural resources on private lands presents a unique set of problems and a unique set of opportunities to provide environmental benefits. However, without adequate incentives, landowners are unlikely to manage their land to provide important ecosystem services.

Processes have been developed and applied that incorporate participatory decision-making processes, involve new roles for state and federal agencies, and are flexible and adaptable to local situations. These processes offer hope for the future of natural resource management on private lands by encouraging social learning and cooperative management.

Following the determination that no such processes were active in the Deer Lodge community in Morgan County, TN, and that important natural resource concerns were present, researchers initiated an interactional community development effort in this community. Monthly meetings were held in the community for a year, and a grant proposal was developed to pursue the identification of a product that could be locally produced and marketed. A qualitative case study approach, utilizing key informant and focus group interviews and participant observation, was employed to describe and analyze the effort. It was found that gaining entry into the community and building trust between participants were key factors in the community development effort.

The existence of significant natural resource problems in the Dry Creek watershed in West Tennessee led to the investigation of the institutional causes of these problems. A case study approach utilizing key informant, focus group, and semi-structured interviews, as well as document review, was employed. The Interactional Analysis and Development (IAD) framework was used to interpret results. It was found that existing institutional arrangements have resulted in outcomes that are not equitable or adaptable and do not ensure accountability. It is recommended that governance mechanisms be established at the watershed scale to address these outcomes.

This dissertation contributes to the growing literature on alternatives to conventional natural resource management and addresses the special need for approaches appropriate for utilization in privately owned landscapes.

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