A Critical Assessment of Collaborative Adaptive Management in Practice


1. Collaborative adaptive management (CAM) is regularly touted as the best way to handle natural resource management in the face of uncertainty, change and conflict. Successful applications of CAM have, however, been elusive in practice.

2. This article examines the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program (AMP) in the United States, and other CAM efforts, to illustrate why and how procedural shortcomings may lead to natural resource management failures and reflect on how they may be overcome.

3. Synthesis and applications. To increase the chance of success, CAM efforts should set clear overarching goals and concrete and measurable objectives, employ tools and incentives to facilitate participation and foster collaboration, implement well-defined joint fact-finding protocols to promote shared learning and manage scientific uncertainty, and commit to monitoring and adapting their management regimes over time. Even in complex and contentious resource management contexts, future CAM efforts that integrate these design elements are likely to lead to more effective natural resource management.

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