Promises and limits of community-based organizations in bridging mismatches of scale: a case study on collaborative governance on federal lands


Federal land managers in the United States are tasked with managing a vast array of resources for current and future generations. However, coordinating action among multiple stakeholders across diverse landscapes is challenging given that the organizations and institutions set up to govern federal lands are often unable to overcome scale-related challenges. Unconventional oil and gas development is often a contentious issue on federal lands. Identifying how to bridge scale mismatches in this sector is critical for achieving management objectives. To gain a deeper understanding of the institutional landscape governing oil and gas, we took an in-depth case study approach and examined a case in the western United States where communities worked with federal land managers to cancel 25 existing oil and gas leases. We identified the most relevant scale mismatches pertaining to unconventional oil and gas development and assessed the role of community-based organizations in bridging scale mismatches to increase institutional fit. Our results demonstrate the importance of community-based organizations that can function as bridging organizations to engage a broad set of actors across scales. Our results also highlight the importance of creating shared visions across diverse stakeholder groups to foster collaboration. We conclude that overcoming scale mismatches requires a focus on shared values and the creation and maintenance of flexible governance networks.

Ecology and Society