Date of Award


Level of Access Assigned by Author

Campus-Only Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Ecology and Environmental Sciences


Kathleen P. Bell

Second Committee Member

Aram J.K. Calhoun

Third Committee Member

Teresa R. Johnson


In this dissertation, I examined two aspects of natural resource governance: collaborative policy making and the contribution of municipalities. In my first study, I explored how power, trust, and learning function within a collaborative network of multiple scales of government and private interests that formed to improve protection of vernal pools. Using a qualitative case study and quantitative network analysis, I identified approaches that enable power to become more horizontally distributed, institutional features that may reduce tendencies to trust only those who share similar beliefs, and network structures that encourage both new information sources and deep deliberation.

In my second study, I conducted an ex-ante policy assessment to compare local-level outcomes of an existing standard to protect vernal pools with a market-based policy that was developed by a collaborative group. I employed economic models to predict economic costs and ecological outcomes associated with each policy option. I found that while a local market-based instrument has the potential to result in better ecological outcomes, hurdles exist related to market size and fiscal feasibility. Conducting this policy analysis within a collaborative process has allowed the group to discuss the challenges and to develop solutions.

In my third study, I examined if and why municipalities adopt policies that contribute to broader sustainability efforts by analyzing ordinances for the presence of policies and estimating regression models to identify the drivers of policy adoption. I found a range of communities adopt policies that promote sustainability. My results confirmed that interest group, public choice, and political market theories are successful in explaining the variation between municipal policy adoption rates, and that application to smaller municipalities allows refinement of policy adoption theories.

In summary, the institutional structure of collaborative organizations can greatly influence important mechanisms such as power, trust and learning that effect how a group functions. A well-functioning group can grapple with difficult issues and develop creative policies. In addition, some local level governments are capable of developing policies that have positive environmental, economic and social outcomes, and considering smaller municipalities can lead to a more complete understanding governance options.