Environmental Management

, Volume 43, Issue 3, pp 411–424 | Cite as

Catalyzing Collaboration: Wisconsin’s Agency-Initiated Basin Partnerships

Article

Abstract

Experience with collaborative approaches to natural resource and environmental management has grown substantially over the past 20 years, and multi-interest, shared-resources initiatives have become prevalent in the United States and internationally. Although often viewed as “grass-roots” and locally initiated, governmental participants are crucial to the success of collaborative efforts, and important questions remain regarding their appropriate roles, including roles in partnership initiation. In the midst of growing governmental support for collaborative approaches in the mid-1990s, the primary natural resource and environmental management agency in Wisconsin (USA) attempted to generate a statewide system of self-sustaining, collaborative partnerships, organized around the state’s river basin boundaries. The agency expected the partnerships to enhance participation by stakeholders, leverage additional resources, and help move the agency toward more integrated and ecosystem-based resource management initiatives. Most of the basin partnerships did form and function, but ten years after this initiative, the agency has moved away from these partnerships and half have disbanded. Those that remain active have changed, but continue to work closely with agency staff. Those no longer functioning lacked clear focus, were dependent upon agency leadership, or could not overcome issues of scale. This article outlines the context for state support of collaborative initiatives and explores Wisconsin’s experience with basin partnerships by discussing their formation and reviewing governmental roles in partnerships’ emergence and change. Wisconsin’s experience suggests benefits from agency support and agency responsiveness to partnership opportunities, but cautions about expectations for initiating general-purpose partnerships.

Keywords

Collaboration Partnerships Watershed management Agency roles 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The work was supported in part by a grant from the University of Wisconsin Consortium for Extension and Research in Agriculture and Natural Resources. Robin Shepard and Bob Korth with University of Wisconsin-Extension, and Ken Wiesner, Mary Hamel, and Wendy McCown, with WDNR contributed substantively to the general framework for the research. Special thanks are due to Molly Lepeska, UW-Madison graduate student, for her assistance with data collection and organization. WDNR leadership encouraged staff participation in interviews and surveys; their support and the input of resource managers and partnership participants throughout Wisconsin were invaluable and greatly appreciated. Reviewer comments and suggestions were very helpful in revising this manuscript.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Urban and Regional PlanningUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA

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