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Integration of Local Ecological Knowledge and Conventional Science: a Study of Seven Community-Based Forestry Organizations in the USA

Heidi L Ballard, University of California - Davis
Maria E Fernandez-Gimenez, Colorado State University
Victoria E Sturtevant, Southern Oregon University

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Abstract

Natural resource management decisions can be based on incomplete knowledge when they lack scientific research, monitoring, and assessment and/or simultaneously fail to draw on local ecological knowledge. Many community-based forestry organizations in the United States attempt to address these knowledge gaps with an integrated ecological stewardship approach that balances ecological, social, and economic goals. This paper examines the use and integration of local knowledge and conventional science in ecological stewardship and monitoring by seven community-based forestry demonstration projects. Through document reviews and interviews with both participants and partners of all of these community-based organizations, we found that all the community-based forestry groups incorporated local ecological knowledge into many aspects of their management or monitoring activities, such as collaboratively designing monitoring programs with local ranchers, forest workers, and residents; involving local people in collecting data and interpreting results; and documenting the local ecological knowledge of private forest landowners, long-time residents, and harvesters of nontimber forest products. We found that all the groups also used conventional science to design or conduct ecological assessments, monitoring, or research. We also found evidence, in the form of changes in attitudes on the part of local people and conventional scientists and jointly produced reports, that the two types of knowledge were integrated by all groups. These findings imply that community-based forestry groups are redistributing the power of conventional science through the use of diverse knowledge sources. Still, several obstacles prevented some local, traditionally under-represented groups from being significantly involved in monitoring and management decisions, and their knowledge has not yet been consistently incorporated.

Key words

civic science; community-based forestry; community-based natural resource management; conventional science; ecological assessment; ecological monitoring; local ecological knowledge; scientific knowledge
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087