Environmental Management

, Volume 39, Issue 3, pp 353–368 | Cite as

Building Trust in Natural Resource Management Within Local Communities: A Case Study of the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

  • Mae A. Davenport
  • Jessica E. Leahy
  • Dorothy H. Anderson
  • Pamela J. Jakes


Communities neighboring federally protected natural areas regularly weigh the costs and benefits of the administering agency’s programs and policies. While most agencies integrate public opinion into decision making, efforts to standardize and formalize public involvement have left many local communities feeling marginalized, spurring acrimony and opposition. A significant body of research has examined barriers to effective public participation as well as strategies for relationship building in planning processes; many of which point to trust as a key factor. Trust is especially tenuous in local communities. This paper explores perceptions of trust, expectations for management, as well as constraints to building trust. In-depth interviews were conducted with 21 community members and USDA Forest Service personnel at the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie in northeastern Illinois. The interviews revealed that trust is perceived as important to effective management. Distinct expectations for management outcomes and processes emerged, including the values, knowledge, and capacity demonstrated in management decisions and actions and opportunities provided for communication, collaboration, and cooperation within the agency-community relationship. The case study identified several constraints to building trust, including competing values, knowledge gaps, limited community engagement, and staff turnover.


Trust Natural resource management Public involvement Collaboration 



The authors would like to extend gratitude to agency personnel and community leaders who provided input and support for this study, especially Logan Lee, Prairie Superintendent of Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, and her staff. We also would like to thank the study participants for their candor and continued collaboration throughout the study. Funding for this project was provided by the North Central Research Station, USDA, Forest Service. We would like to acknowledge the insights of three anonymous reviewers whose suggestions greatly improved this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mae A. Davenport
    • 1
  • Jessica E. Leahy
    • 2
  • Dorothy H. Anderson
    • 3
  • Pamela J. Jakes
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of ForestrySouthern Illinois University CarbondaleCarbondaleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Forest ManagementUniversity of MaineOronoUSA
  3. 3.Department of Forest ResourcesUniversity of MinnesotaNorth St. PaulUSA
  4. 4.North Central Research Station, USDA, Forest ServiceSt. PaulUSA

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