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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Boise, Idaho » Northwest Watershed Research Center » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #368448

Research Project: Assessment and Mitigation of Disturbed Sagebrush-Steppe Ecosystems

Location: Northwest Watershed Research Center

Title: Management innovations for resilient public rangelands: Adoption constraints and considerations for interagency diffusion

item MEREDITH, GWENDWR - Utah State University
item BRUNSON, MARK - Utah State University
item Hardegree, Stuart

Submitted to: Rangeland Ecology and Management
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/6/2021
Publication Date: 3/3/2021
Citation: Meredith, G., Brunson, M., Hardegree, S.P. 2021. Management innovations for resilient public rangelands: Adoption constraints and considerations for interagency diffusion. Rangeland Ecology and Management. 75:152-160.

Interpretive Summary: Annual grass invasion has degraded millions of acres of the rangeland in the Intermountain western United States. Historical strategies to combat this invasion have had relatively low success but new and innovative methodologies are currently being tested and recommended by federal and state science agencies. Adoption of these innovations, however, can be slowed by individual and organizational barriers to technology transfer. In this study, we interviewed land managers across the Great Basin and southern Utah to identify the major barriers that affect the adoption and diffusion of two emerging technologies: the "Interpreting Indicators of Rangeland Health" protocol; and the web-based "Weather-Centric Restoration Tool". Identified barriers to innovation include: lack of information exchange across and between agencies due to hierarchical decision-making systems and a perceived lack of flexibility to attempt innovative approaches to management. Adoption of innovative restoration strategies may require the identification of innovation "champions" within the management agency that can promote a new methodology or technical innovation, and diffusion of new techniques within the management agency.

Technical Abstract: Maintaining healthy rangeland ecosystems requires adaptive co-management at the landscape scale. Because the majority of western rangelands are publicly owned, it is critical that federal land management agencies work together in generating and sharing information. Promotion and communication of rangeland management innovations among agencies is one means of sharing information. Two rangeland management innovations that identify landscape condition and facilitate proactive management were studied in order to better understand agency adoption decisions and barriers to diffusion of the innovations across agencies. Using a mixed qualitative methodology, we interviewed land managers across the floristic Great Basin and in Southeastern Utah responsible for making or advising rangeland management decisions. Using social network analysis of land manager connections in Southeastern Utah and thematic analysis of interviews with all participants, we were able to identify variables at the innovation, individual, organization, and external system levels that affect innovation adoption and diffusion across agencies. In line with previous research, desirable innovation traits were related to five constructs: complexity, relative advantage, compatibility, trialability, and observability. Agency siloing was found to be the biggest factor affecting individual and organization level adoption decisions. The external socio-political system was also found as a driver of organization-level barriers: funding streams, legal considerations, and differing institutional cultures between agencies. While management innovations are hindered by these barriers, there is also the potential for them to serve as promoters of institutional change and reshape these constraints.