Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences

, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp 222–233 | Cite as

Culture as a means to contextualize policy

  • Damon M. HallEmail author
  • Susan J. Gilbertz
  • Cristi C. Horton
  • Tarla Rai Peterson


Community-engaged decision-making and management mark a change in philosophy and practice of shared-resource governance. Moving from national to local scales of agency coordination and public engagement requires equivalent change in the scale of useful social science data. Upon recognizing landowners and resource users as allies in policy implementation, success relies on how well diverse groups can understand one another and work together. Unfortunately, managers often have a fragmented understanding of the interests, voices, and lives of the public they serve. We outline an early scoping means for engaging and organizing local voices to prepare decision-making teams. To provide a foundation for decentralized water resource planning, we used a cultural studies lens to conduct and analyze 313 in-depth stakeholder interviews on the Yellowstone River. This essay chronicles this approach and reflects benefits and challenges, and why it may appeal to other decentralized planning efforts.


Culture Decentralization Local knowledge Place-based Method 



We are grateful to the people of Yellowstone River, the Yellowstone River Conservation District Council, the local Conservation District Administrators who helped recruit participants, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and the piloting work of Dr. Michael Vickery and students of Alma College. We also thank our inventory team assistants: Amanda Skinner, Jolene Burdge, Amber Gamsby, Nancy Heald, Beth Oswald, John Weikel and Beth Quiroz. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under award # EPS-0904155.


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Copyright information

© AESS 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Damon M. Hall
    • 1
    Email author
  • Susan J. Gilbertz
    • 2
  • Cristi C. Horton
    • 3
  • Tarla Rai Peterson
    • 4
  1. 1.Sustainability Solutions Initiative, The Margaret Chase Smith Center for Public PolicyUniversity of MaineOronoUSA
  2. 2.Department of Sociology, Political Science, Native American Studies and Environmental StudiesMontana State University-BillingsBillingsUSA
  3. 3.Communication StudiesTarleton State UniversityStephenvilleUSA
  4. 4.Department of Wildlife and Fisheries SciencesTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA

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