Fish, Forest Plans, and Fairness: Creating a Natural Resource Commons in Southwest Montana

EPA Grant Number: U915229
Title: Fish, Forest Plans, and Fairness: Creating a Natural Resource Commons in Southwest Montana
Investigators: Higgins, Lorie L.
Institution: Washington State University
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: January 1, 1997 through January 1, 2001
Project Amount: $102,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (1997) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Fellowship - Social Sciences , Academic Fellowships , Environmental Justice


The objective of this research project is to gain a theoretical understanding of the changing character of natural resource decision making. Increasing recognition that conventional understandings and rational-analytical approaches to problem solving are inadequate has led to widespread experimentation with innovative strategies to involvefor involving the public in management decisions. This research traces and examines contemporary efforts to create fair and effective systems of access to and use of common resources in the rural West by comparing a conventional public participation approach in eastern Washington with two experimental approaches in southwestern Montana.


I am using the methods of participant observation, depth interviewing, and document analysis to examine the progress of individual processes, and whether norms of collaboration are developing at the local and regional level as a result of local and state efforts. My primary focus is on processes that arise in a particular sub-region of communities that share concerns about common resources. Thus, rather than using attributes of cases as a sample basis, I have chosen to study a geographical region and the collaborative processes that exist there, regardless of their level of success or the specific issues addressed. Exogenous forces at the regional and national/global level affecting the context in which those processes operate are analyzed, in addition toas are the internal dynamics of each collaborative group. Data areis evaluatedanalyzed using grounded theory methodology and qualitative data analysis software.

Supplemental Keywords:

fellowship, Montana, Washington, natural resources, decision making, common resources.

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 1997
  • 1998
  • 1999
  • Final