Armatas, Christopher A., William T. Borrie, & Alan E. Watson (2021, November). A social science method for public engagement in the context of natural resource planning in the United States. Society and Natural Resources. (ePub in advance of print) (Open Access: https://doi.org/10.1080/08941920.2021.1996666)

Abstract: The application of scientifically rigorous public engagement approaches is lacking. In this context, we present a “social vulnerability protocol” which has now been applied in several broad-scale planning efforts. The protocol aims to understand the multitude of relationships that people have with public land through a prioritization of ecosystem services and a selection of relevant drivers of change. The protocol is analytically rigorous and readily interpretable, and is clearly tied to the planning objectives of knowledge co-production, tradeoff analysis, and understanding how various threats may impact social well-being. In the context of the Gila National Forest Plan revision, comparisons between the perspectives of the public and those of the local land management agency show a diversity of stakeholder values and human-nature relationships. We believe this approach contributes to more inclusive decision-making, strengthens public understanding of the complexities involved, and builds trust through transparent and explicit acknowledgement of diverse perspectives.

Christopher A Armatas <christopher.armatas@usda.gov> is in the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute, Rocky Mountain Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Missoula, MT, USA.

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