, Volume 43, Issue 1, pp 107-117
Date: 06 Sep 2008

Cross-Boundary Coordination on Forested Landscapes: Investigating Alternatives for Implementation

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Cross-boundary coordination is a tool for ecosystem management whereby landowners voluntarily coordinate management practices toward economic and/or ecological landscape-scale outcomes (e.g., fiber, invasive species control, habitat). Past research indicates that it may be particularly applicable on landscapes that include small forest landholdings. To explore alternatives by which coordination might occur, we conducted seven focus groups with landowners (n = 51) who actively manage their forests in southwest Wisconsin and northeast Iowa. Focus group participants were presented with three hypothetical alternatives to coordinate with their neighbors; landowners could self-organize, work with a natural resource professional (i.e., forester), or work with an organization to complete a cross-boundary practice. In this article, we focus on the latter two alternatives and the role of two social theories—principal-agent and cooperation—in explaining landowners’ evaluations of these alternatives. Key findings are that (1) cross-boundary coordination has the potential to alleviate problems between landowners and resource professionals inherent to their typical working relationship, and (2) social relationships are a major factor contributing to landowners’ willingness to participate. We posit that cross-boundary coordination offers a non-economic incentive for landowners to work together as it may reduce the uncertainty associated with hiring a resource professional. At the same time, professionals can provide a bridging function among landowners who are unacquainted. To achieve these outcomes and expand the adoption of cross-boundary coordination, we suggest four guidelines. First, foster dialogue among landowners toward shared cognition and oversight. Second, match landowners’ practices and objectives such that there are clear benefits to all. Third, develop relationships through low risk activities where possible. Fourth, do not expect on-going commitments.