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The Role of Private Actors in Climate Change Projects on National Forests and Implications for Adaptive Governance

Authors: Natasha Collins*, , Courtney Schultz, Associate Professor at Colorado State University
Topics: Human-Environment Geography
Keywords: private actors, climate change, adaptive governance, Forest Service, national forests
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The U.S. Forest Service turns to external partners, such as private companies, to meet gaps in funding and capacity in order to address climate change impacts. These companies work through non-profit organizations, or bridging organizations, who facilitate the financial exchange and help implement projects on federal lands. Thus, three main groups are involved: Forest Service staff, private corporate partners, and third party non-profit organizations. I conduct semi-structured interviews with these groups in order to: (1) better understand the interests of private partners in order to improve private-public partnerships; and (2) evaluate these interdependent relationships for adaptive governance. Adaptive governance is an emergent form of environmental governance that links social and ecological systems and supports collective action in the face of uncertainty and rapid change. Companies of all sizes, sectors, and regions are funding projects such as tree planting, watershed restoration, and forest health, on national forests. Motivations for private sector engagement include marketing and brand image, leadership within the company, company culture, investor pressures, concerns regarding climate change, desires to increase employee engagement, “everyone is doing it”, and requirements for sustainable forestry certifications. Overall, individuals have been positive about their partnerships, but challenges include how to quantify the benefits of a project, forests with less “attractive story value” getting less projects, and a limited understanding of national forests and the opportunities the Forest Service has for its partners. This research is important for improving these types of partnerships going forward, as well as evaluating their role for effective governance.

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