|dc.description.abstract||Rural landscapes are transitioning from productivist to multifunctional uses, which implies that planning has to address the conflicts emanating from our need to protect the natural environment and promote social well-being. Yet, multifunctional landscape planning has remained elusive in both theory and practice. My doctoral research draws on the governance of working landscapes – an example of multifunctional landscapes – to address this gap. My aim is to shed light on the elements of governance necessary for protecting the natural environment and supporting the social well-being of rural communities. Specifically, I (1) propose a conceptual framework for the working landscapes approach, (2) examine the conditions and mechanisms that foster sustainable working landscapes, and (3) examine approaches for addressing risks in the management of working landscapes. My research used two main strategies of inquiry, including an integrative review and a case study. The case study was drawn from the South of the Divide region in Southwestern Saskatchewan, Canada.
The integrative review found that the working landscapes approach has the following features: (1) it focuses on integrating social well-being and environmental protection within the landscape, (2) it involves collective action among multiple actors, and (3) working landscapes shape and are shaped by their social-ecological context. These features make the approach an important option for addressing conflicts resulting from environmental protection and social well-being. However, the effectiveness of the working landscapes approach is impeded by socio-economic challenges such as the higher costs involved in managing working landscapes, conflicting interests among stakeholders, environmental and policy risks and uncertainties, a lack of appropriate knowledge, and mistrust among stakeholders. These challenges are addressed using multiple governance configurations in different contexts involving the state, market, and communities. Nevertheless, a synthesis of these governance configurations suggests that certain common elements – trust, facilitative leadership, equity, local autonomy, and incentives – are critical for the sustainability of working landscapes.
In a case study of the South of the Divide region, I applied my conceptual framework of working landscapes to examine the conditions and mechanisms that foster sustainable working landscapes. I found that four governance conditions (i.e., facilitative leadership, local autonomy, trust, and incentives) connected by five mechanisms (i.e., institutional disruption, institutional crafting and drift, brokerage or bridging, program uptake, and alleviation of fear of harm) produced positive management outcomes in the South of the Divide. The most plausible pathway is that dissatisfied actors disrupt the existing governance arrangements and create new ones that reflect their desire for local autonomy. Local autonomy, in turn, creates an atmosphere for local actors to form coalitions and build trust; trust enhances program uptake and the co-design and co-implementation of incentives, which then alleviates land managers’ fear of harm from participating in species at risk conservation programs. While these conditions and mechanisms were deemed essential for ensuring the sustainability of working landscapes, it emerged that environmental risk factors, particularly droughts, were also critical determinants of the sustainability of the South of the Divide.
I then examined the approaches used to address drought in the South of the Divide. Drawing on the experiences of land managers in the South of the Divide, I confirmed that drought affects the ability of land managers to meet both social well-being and environmental protection goals in working landscapes. Specifically, within the result-based conservation agreement framework – an approach used by the South of the Divide Conservation Action Program Inc. to implement species at risk conservation in the region – drought affects land managers by limiting their ability to achieve ecosystem targets and forcing them to incur extra costs (i.e., extra management and opportunity costs) to meet ecosystem targets. Furthermore, I found that the incentive structure, which allows for a pro-rata reduction and the design of environmentally adaptive outcome indicators, helps reduce risks. Also, trust among actors and local autonomy facilitates continuous engagement among actors to address the uncertainty and unpredictability associated with droughts.
Collectively, this research enhances our understanding of how to address the conflicts emanating from our need to protect the natural environment and promote social well-being in the following ways. First, it advances a framework for the working landscapes approach. This framework will help guide empirical case studies on the working landscapes approach, further its theoretical understanding, and contribute to enhancing policy aimed at increased social well-being and environmental protection. Second, my research identifies two opportunities to enhance the prospects of policies that seek to address human-nature conflicts. The opportunities are (1) top-down regulations can enhance their likelihood for success by creating room for further institutional work at the local level (creating new institutions and forming coalitions to further local interests) and (2) focusing on underlying mechanisms, rather than only governance conditions, enhances policy prospects. Third, my research supports the proposition that multilevel institutional arrangements can help focus planning interventions on both place and function. Multilevel institutional arrangements allow for reconciling the dilemma of addressing the place-centred needs of people and respecting the interconnectedness of ecological systems (function-centred). Fourth, my research shows that social well-being and environmental protection can provide normative guiding principles for planning in rural environments, which contributes towards developing a normative theory for rural-environmental planning. In practice, it can guide the development of well-validated, durable criteria or indicators for successful rural planning outcomes.||en