Conceptualizing Stewardship: Examining the role of civil society in environmental governance - Paper Session (Session 1 of 5)

Type: Paper
Theme: Public Engagement in Geography
Sponsor Groups: Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group, Applied Geography Specialty Group, Urban Geography Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM (Eastern Standard Time)
Room: Napoleon A3, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Organizers: Michelle Johnson, Erika Svendsen
Chairs: Michelle Johnson


Natural resource management often begins with a perspective that focuses on public authorities’ formal jurisdictions (e.g. federal, state, and local agencies) as well as private property owners and the parcels they manage. Yet, increasingly, environmental governance is recognized to be comprised of collaborative arrangements as well as polycentric networks of actors working across sectors and scales (Sabatier et al. 2005; Koontz and Thomas 2006; Ostrom 2010; Connolly et al. 2013; see also Davies 2011). Greater attention is needed to the role of formal and informal civic actors in these networks, not only as property owners or land managers, but as stewards who engage in acts of caretaking and claims-making across public and private lands (Andersson et al. 2014). Many civic groups have missions that span different domains of environmental protection and community development -- where stewardship (or civic ecology) is used as a means to advance local quality of life (Connolly et al. 2014; Krasny and Tidball 2015). As such, stewardship practices can be undertaken by diverse groups -- and individuals -- with different foci on youth, seniors, social services, housing, arts, and immigration. These stewards can work independent of government; in collaborative and hybrid arrangements; and/or through contestation, activism, and advocacy. Recent scholarship offers one broad definition of environmental stewardship as conservation, management, monitoring, education, and advocacy around the local environment -- including land, air, water, waste, and toxics (Svendsen and Campbell 2008; Fisher et al. 2012). Others theorize stewardship through the domains of knowledge, care, and agency (Andersson et al. 2017) and have proposed social-ecological stewardship frameworks drawing on multiple scales and methodological approaches (Romolini et al. 2016; Muñoz-Erickson et al. 2016). Further integration of perspectives from urban environmental stewardship, civic engagement, and ecosystem management approaches to governance in more rural settings could contribute to a theory of stewardship.

How can different theoretical frameworks and perspectives, including (but not limited to) political ecology, critical social theory, environmental psychology, resilience, complex adaptive systems, and social-ecological systems, be brought to bear on the phenomenon of environmental stewardship? What philosophical lineages and insights can shed new light on the knowledge, care, and agency expressed through stewardship practices? Much remains to be understood about where, why, and how these stewardship groups emerge, persist, and--in some cases--professionalize. How do stewardship practices vary across uneven and patchy landscapes, which differ in terms of social, political, and biophysical characteristics? Where do we see greater capacity to engage in stewardship work, and where are there gaps? How do stewards work to create, shape, and transform space and systems? What explains the strategies and tactics these groups pursue independently and via social networks? How do information and resources flow through networks, and what explains the structure of collaborative ties? Thinking beyond civic actors as solely group-level entities, how do individuals steward and interact with civic groups in collectively stewarding places? How does stewardship differ when it occurs on public lands versus privately-owned lands? How do resources and cultural norms in a place affect who can steward what aspects of the landscape? What does stewardship contribute to placemaking? Finally, what social and ecological impacts do these groups create, including in shaping transformations of social-ecological systems?

This series of sessions focuses on conceptualizing, analyzing, and supporting environmental stewardship. While recognizing that these foci are mutually constitutive and overlapping, we adopt these three lenses to advance stewardship thinking in terms of: theoretical concepts, methodological innovations, and novel ways forward to support stewardship practices. We will organize two paper sessions on the first two lenses and a final panel discussion to explore cross-cutting topics. Such topics can include: co-production of knowledge by scholars and activists; strategies (e.g. activism, advocacy, pedagogy) and tools (e.g. decision-support, GIS, storytelling, art) for supporting stewardship; and development of future research-and-action agendas. We invite presenters to participate in this series of sessions who are addressing themes of stewardship at individual, group, and network-level scales in their work.

These sessions have been organized by the USDA Forest Service - NYC Urban Field Station (

Relevant Literature:

Andersson, E., Barthel, S., Borgström, S., Colding, J., Elmqvist, T., Folke, C., & Gren, Å. (2014). Reconnecting cities to the biosphere: stewardship of green infrastructure and urban ecosystem services. Ambio, 43(4), 445-453.

Andersson, E., Enqvist, J., & Tengö, M. (2017). 12 Stewardship in Urban Landscapes. The Science and Practice of Landscape Stewardship, 222.

Connolly, J. J., Svendsen, E. S., Fisher, D. R., & Campbell, L. K. (2013). Organizing urban ecosystem services through environmental stewardship governance in New York City. Landscape and Urban Planning, 109(1), 76-84.

---. (2014). Networked governance and the management of ecosystem services: The case of urban environmental stewardship in New York City. Ecosystem Services, 10, 187–194.

Davies, J. (2011). Challenging Governance Theory: From Networks to Hegemony. Bristol: The Policy Press.

Fisher, D. R., Campbell, L. K., & Svendsen, E. S. (2012). The organisational structure of urban environmental stewardship. Environmental Politics, 21(1), 26-48.

Koontz, T. M., & Thomas, C. W. (2006). What do we know and need to know about the environmental outcomes of collaborative management?. Public Administration Review, 66(s1), 111-121.

Krasny, M. and K. Tidball. (2015). Civic Ecology: Adaptation and Transformation from the Ground Up. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Muñoz-Erickson, T.A.; Campbell, L.K.; Childers, D.L.; Grove, J.M.; Iwaniec, D.M.; Pickett, S.T.A. et al. (2016). Demystifying governance and its role for transitions in urban social–ecological systems. Ecosphere, 7 (11), 1-11.

Ostrom, E. (2010). Polycentric systems for coping with collective action and global environmental change. Global Environmental Change, 20(4), 550-557.

Romolini, M., Grove, J. M., Ventriss, C. L., Koliba, C. J., & Krymkowski, D. H. (2016). Toward an understanding of citywide urban environmental governance: an examination of stewardship networks in Baltimore and Seattle. Environmental management, 58(2), 254-267.

Sabatier, P. A., Focht, W., Lubell, M., Trachtenberg, Z., Vedlitz, A., & Matlock, M. (2005). Swimming upstream: Collaborative approaches to watershed management. MIT press.

Svendsen, E., & Campbell, L. K. (2008). Urban ecological stewardship: understanding the structure, function and network of community-based urban land management. Cities and the Environment (CATE), 1(1), 4.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Johan Enqvist*, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Simon West, Stockholm Resilience Centre , L Jamila Haider , Stockholm Resilience Centre , Vanessa A Masterson , Stockholm Resilience Centre , Uno Svedin, Stockholm Resilience Centre , Stewardship as a boundary object for sustainability research in the Anthropocene: Linking care, knowledge and agency 20 8:00 AM
Presenter Nathalie Blanc*, , Flaminia Paddeu, University Paris 13, Ordinary Environmentalism in Cities 20 8:20 AM
Presenter Tischa Muñoz-Erickson*, USDA Forest Service, International Institute of Tropical Forestry, Elizabeth Cook, Urban Systems Lab, The New School, Robert Hobbins, School of Sustainability, Arizona State University, Michelle Johnson, USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station, David Iwaniec, Urban Studies Institute, Georgia State University, Lindsay Campbell, USDA Forest Service, Norther Research Station, Knowledge Systems for Urban Stewardship: Exploring the Role of Civic Knowledge Systems in Environmental and Sustainability Governance 20 8:40 AM
Presenter Sophie Yarker*, , Voluntarism in rural ageing: new spaces of care and stewardship 20 9:00 AM
Presenter Erika Svendsen*, USDA Forest Service, Heather McMillen , US Forest Service, Lindsay K. Campbell, US Forest Service, Traveling together: Co-learning approaches for strengthening holistic stewardship 20 9:20 AM

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