Adaptive governance and the administrative state: Knowledge management for forest planning in the western United States

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Scholarship on adaptive governance emphasizes the importance of institutional flexibility, collaboration, and social networks for linking knowledge to action across scales of socio-ecological organization. However, a major gap in our knowledge exists around the design of policies that can support the generation and application of knowledge across levels of decision-making in natural resource management agencies such as the US Forest Service. To address this gap, we conducted a qualitative study, consisting of interviews with Forest Service staff and external partners, to investigate challenges and opportunities for improved knowledge management in the context of ecological monitoring for federal forest planning in the western United States. We found that decentralized decision-making structures, limited formalization for knowledge management processes, and scarce institutional resources interact to create barriers for effective knowledge management and adaptive decision-making. However, we also found there are opportunities for improving knowledge management through administrative policy tools such as partnerships, centralized budgetary authority and coordination, formal administrative and collaborative processes, and investment in administrative knowledge brokers at different levels of the agency. Our findings underscore the importance of bureaucratic organization and research on administrative policy design for operationalizing elements of adaptive governance in state institutions

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