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Toward an Understanding of Citywide Urban Environmental Governance: An Examination of Stewardship Networks in Baltimore and Seattle


Efforts to create more sustainable cities are evident in the proliferation of sustainability policies in cities worldwide. It has become widely proposed that the success of these urban sustainability initiatives will require city agencies to partner with, and even cede authority to, organizations from other sectors and levels of government. Yet the resulting collaborative networks are often poorly understood, and the study of large whole networks has been a challenge for researchers. We believe that a better understanding of citywide environmental governance networks can inform evaluations of their effectiveness, thus contributing to improved environmental management. Through two citywide surveys in Baltimore and Seattle, we collected data on the attributes of environmental stewardship organizations and their network relationships. We applied missing data treatment approaches and conducted social network and comparative analyses to examine (a) the organizational composition of the network, and (b) how information and knowledge are shared throughout the network. Findings revealed similarities in the number of actors and their distribution across sectors, but considerable variation in the types and locations of environmental stewardship activities, and in the number and distribution of network ties in the networks of each city. We discuss the results and potential implications of network research for urban sustainability governance.

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This study was part of Dr. Romolini’s unpublished doctoral dissertation from the University of Vermont. We are grateful to all of the organizations in Baltimore and Seattle who participated in the survey, and particularly to those who offered valuable input along the way. We acknowledge that this research would not have been possible without material and intellectual support from the USDA Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest and Northern Research stations—particularly Dale Blahna and Kathy Wolf for their mentorship and guidance during field seasons in Seattle, and Lindsay Campbell, Dana Fisher, and Erika Svendsen for developing the foundational STEW-MAP research design in New York City and collaborating to refine the survey instrument along with Lynne Westphal and Cherie Fisher in Chicago. Financial support was provided by ARRA Project 10-CA-11260489-090, NSF-DEB-0423476, and DC-BC ULTRA-Ex NSF-DEB-0948947. We also thank Naim Kapucu for a thoughtful review of an earlier version of the paper. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this manuscript are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of any of the contributors.

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Correspondence to Michele Romolini.

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Romolini, M., Morgan Grove, J., Ventriss, C.L. et al. Toward an Understanding of Citywide Urban Environmental Governance: An Examination of Stewardship Networks in Baltimore and Seattle. Environmental Management 58, 254–267 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-016-0704-4

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  • Urban sustainability
  • Governance networks
  • Social network analysis
  • Urban natural resources management