Natural Resources Management Essay Ideas

Conflicts in natural resource governance is associated with various factors such as ownership, sharing, capitalization, commercialization, detaching communities from place of habitation to name a few. Governance pillars viz. Judiciary, Legislature, Executive and Civil Society play a critical role in establishing balance between variables and the real time situations. There have been several instances when resources are exploited through governance, which then become a critical issue warranting action from international agencies,å civil society and to a large extent by communities for bringing the state of affairs to the government and assist in making holistic decisions with priority for nature and environment, its resources. This paper reflects on few such complexities in managing natural resources and derives a qualitative co-relation between governance and natural resources by taking inspiration from the paper "To Have or Have not" by HBF along with suggestive paths such as enhancing trust and integrity among stakeholders and cultivating a value based political system.


In January, HBF collaborated with the Center for Science and Environment (CSE) for the Future Workshop: Resource Governance in 21st Century. The workshop engaged participants from India and Afghanistan. During workshop, these diverse minds pooled their personal experiences and creativity to discuss and propose possible solutions to key natural resource management problems.

Priority Areas

The workshop was a journey, with both practical field visit as well as interactive sessions. It started with a real life experience at a sacred forest colloquially called "Bani". Bani has been well protected and taken care of by locals, who strive to spread awareness about its ecological and sacred value in the community. The field visit was a hands-on experience of how resource conservation can be strengthened through deeply rooted faith and religion. It drew appreciation and acknowledgement for the role of community as the source for communicating the essence of place through historical facts, legends and stories. However, at the same time the field-visit was also an exposure to increased destruction of forests in the name of development. The authors believe that culture, faith, religion, politics along with scientific temper in right direction coupled with a sense of belongingness and ownership are critical to building a strong and valued natural resource system.

Personally, throughout the workshop, the authors consistently felt that conflicts arise in interpretation related to sustainability and rights of natural resources. While few participants strongly felt that these should be governed by the community, the rest felt that as natural resources are national properties, the government must have greater control over it with moderated rights to the people.

 However, amongst all issues, the ones that received most attention were: 1. Forestry 2. Mining and 3. Biodiversity Conservation. All three topics generated extensive support from the participants enabling discussions for current status, systems conflicts, governance and suggestive remedial actions. This essay uncovers crucial points that were discussed at the workshop. It is a representation of ideas, observation and analysis of authors on the natural resource governance scenario both at national and international level.

Natural Resource and its Governance

Natural resource governance involves interaction and decision-making regarding the resource use. The process is complicated because of the involvement of diverse stakeholders who are dependent on the resource in different capacities. Decision making in such a situation becomes very challenging, as it requires developing a solution that is equally acceptable by all. Allen and Gould (1986) and Shindler (1999) describe such a situation as 'wicked problem', where due to the involvement of diverse values of all the stakeholders partaking in the decision-making process makes resource governance even more complicated. The values of these individuals are influenced by religion, culture, faith, political view and scientific temper. It is these social values that attributes to the 'wickedness' of the problem. Allen and Gould (1986) further argue that in a society, values are always shifting therefore, developing an effective resource management plan in such a pluralistic society becomes close to impossible.

On a different note, Garret Hardin in his seminal article, 'Tragedy of the Commons' termed resource users as rational individuals who he believed would resort to overexploitation to maximize their own profits. Hardin predicts that in such a scenario overuse and degradation would befall natural resource and offers centralized government restrictions and/or privatization of resource as potential solution to the problem (Hardin, 1968). Hardin's prescription of government restriction and private ownership was enacted by policymakers around the world, but his approach was challenged by Elinor Ostrom, who won Nobel Prize in 2009 in Economics for her work. Ostrom on the basis of analysis of several case studies from all over the world challenged Hardin's argument; through her research she was able to establish that, management of natural resources is complex and that privatization and public ownership weren't the only solution. She posited that apart from private or state regime, there were also cases where members of the community got together to manage resources they were dependent upon. She referred to such an arrangement of self-organized management of resources as local institution, where individuals create their own rules, monitor its compliance in the community and subsequently sanction the rule breakers.

An example of such an institution is Van Panchayats (Forest Councils). In the state of Uttarakhand, Van Panchayats are traditional institution. They have been in existence since 1931. Van Panchayats exist in most of the villages in Uttarakhand, where villagers unanimously have been involved in managing forests, watersheds and water resources in their area. Despite being a state property, the community members have a very strong sense of ownership and close affinity towards these resources. The community clearly understands the crucial importance of forests for sustaining lives and livelihoods hence, they are selflessly involved in its management.

 Ostrom and her colleagues highlighted the role of self-organized communities/institutions in their work. At the same time there is also a large pool of research that underscores importance of bottoms-up approach toward formation of natural resource management policies.

All the previous research have successfully highlighted the importance of collaboration of stakeholders from grassroots local government level to agency level, where these stakeholders with diverse needs and values come into a consensus to develop a plan that best meets the needs of everyone.

Shifting Paradigms in Natural Resource Management in India: From Agency Control to Collaborative Management

The history of natural resource management in India represents an interesting shift in management paradigms from strict agency control to collaborative management. However, this shift from centralized to more decentralized approach was very gradual. As India still follows the old administrative system established during the colonial times by the British, whose core objective back then was 'command and control', even after India got its independence in 1947, it was hard for the administrative system to break free of this old mentality. Therefore, eventually when the need for collaboration in managing resources arose, the agencies weren't adaptive enough to make fundamental shift in its- attitude, policies, and procedures to respond to these changing needs.

1.  Forestry

India might boast of being one of the countries with the oldest forest administration system. With the set up of forest department in 1864, and passage of subsequent Forest Acts in 1865, 1878 and 1972, which are still in effect, large tracts of lands were transferred under government control. This process of government taking over the ownership of the forests initiated a process through which the rights of locals to access and harvest were terminated. They continued to demarcate large stretches of forest land for commercial exploitation of timber, and traditional community rights to forest access and harvesting of products were steadily eroded (Poffenberger and McGean 1996). Commercial exploitation of forest continued, in fact, accelerated after India got its independence in 1947.

The Forest Policy Act of 1952 retained the forest lands under the exclusive control of state. Although the policy accepted 'village forests' to serve the needs of people in the village, it did not grant them rights to use or access forest areas.

 Post 1980s there were several reforms made in the Forest Act keeping in mind needs and historical injustices to Scheduled tribes and other Traditional Forest dwellers. In 1988, the National Forest Policy was revised, and for the first time an important policy document was devised that emphasized on conservation and meeting of local needs, instead of industrial production (Ministry of Environment and Forests 1988). Reforms like Joint Forest Management (1990) and Forest Rights Act (2006) recognized the rights of locals. These reforms were a step toward decentralization of large groups of people who were politically marginalized.

 The 1990s was the era of political decentralization and rise of backward class, however, claims of participation made by these collaborative initiatives raised skepticism. Because government by nature has been always interested in accumulating more power over resources, scholars criticized these participatory policies to be 'sleigh of hand' carried out by the state to satisfy other stakeholders while retaining primary control over resources. Scholars have also argued that there are no platforms or spaces where different opinions or interest can be articulated; conflicts are suppressed by leaderships dominating the partnership as a result of which ground level needs are still unaddressed. 

Studies have demonstrated that in most places the collaborative measures don’t last long, or end up creating unequal partners. Such policies become dysfunctional either after initial enthusiasm dies down or after the monetary resources are exhausted (Arora, 1994). In some cases the collaborative policies exist only on paper and are ineffective in protecting the resource (Ghate and Nagendra, 2005). Due to lack of faith of community in the state, the communities by and large remain unconvinced about the benefits to be gained from accepting state designed arrangements at considerable loss of autonomy. Since collaboration is an initiative of state/federal agency there still exist an imbalance of power as the locals cannot exercise initiative unless it is under terms dictated by the government.

Downward accountability in the forest is still limited, as decision making authority is not vested in the community, rather it rests with the agency, and the user groups are not allowed to make significant changes to the management policies. User groups have limited decision-making authority over their forests, and thus, this kind of management, although might be effective in the short term, is not very participatory. Studies have shown that, in situations where management framework is developed by State to fulfill national objectives, responsiveness to local requirements is limited, leading to a loss in flexibility and adaptation to local circumstances.

2. Mining

Just like forestry, mining operations have also caused considerable damage with irreversible effects. These have been mainly due to lack of sensitiveness toward forests and community, prioritizing business over social and ecological capital together with loose regulatory framework. These were also amplified by corporates and strongmen who cared little about the consequence of undertaking activities, even in sensitive locations.

Mining industry has been classified as: coal based, fuel based, non-coal, non-fuel based. Mining policies does not take into account the different types of mining as a separate entity. This has often led to conflicting policies due to generalization of mining policies for different mining operations.

 Taking a cue of Planetary Boundaries from the article "To Have or Have Not", mining should serve as a classic example of the same. As there is unprecedented demand with scarce supply, there is a huge demand of technologies which aim to cross the threshold limit for reaching to the so called "last available extractable resource" without going through a logical thought process for having such a decision at the sacrifice of ecological balance.

Mining industry has been operating with more power and ambitious plans, which are at the best, may be termed as "unsustainable". 
India produces as many as 87 minerals, which include 4 fuels, 10 metallic, 47 non-metallic, 3 atomic and 23 minor minerals (including building and other materials) along with more than 2,600 mines operating in a year. In India, coal is looked after by the Ministry of Coal, while the others are under the jurisdiction of The Ministry of Mines. This ministry has come out with Sustainable Development Framework for the Mining Sector & Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). However, it excludes many stakeholders and focuses mainly on Government-based organizations and their CSR. The framework also excludes environmental evaluation methodologies, through which the life cycle analysis could be arrived at and a better understanding of these can be achieved. Secondly, the proposed framework, excludes off-shore mining. Thirdly, it could have been more inclusive if the two ministries would have come out with a common implementable guidelines for do’s and dont’s based on a vision for stakeholders including the mining companies. 

In many, if not most instances, decentralization reforms tend to be louder on the rhetoric and less developed on the ground (Nagendra, 2005). Often, these purported reforms lead neither to the strengthening of local communities, nor to the betterment of status of resource. Lack of flexibility to make changes exposes lack of downward accountability, creating an additional responsibility on local communities of managing the resources without being empowered to make their own changes to the management program.

Local communities currently function under a situation of constraint, where they clearly require more than delegation of responsibilities, as is currently the case; to ensure their buy-in, the devolution of rights, assets, and power is a must (Sundar, 2000; Nagendra, 2005). The very aspect of decentralization of these policies raised skepticism, because in reality the government is incapable of completely breaking through the trend of 'command and control' and adapting to changing political reality.

 Therefore, although on papers the reforms might seem as if they are inclusive, but in reality policies are very much top down. In addition, these policies are worded in a convoluted fashion and have lot of ambiguity in them, which makes implementation very challenging. This leaves one to question the legitimacy of the system and raises some of the following questions:

 What can be done to make the system fairer and more effective? 
What is the most crucial step that needs to be taken to ensure equitable distribution of resource to all?
 Is 'old  actually  gold'? 

We are still following the old administrative system, the very foundation of which was 'command and control', is it OK to still continue following that or is it about time to overhaul the entire administration and establish one that is more adaptive and well suited to political reality?

3. Biodiversity Conservation

Biodiversity conservation is also a complex issue. Again the complexity is appended by the interplay of ecological and the social system (overarching problem in all the topics). It is this interplay that generates uncertainties in the system thereby making it difficult for the managers to develop appropriate solutions to the problems. Decision making/policy making in biodiversity conversation becomes challenging due to conflicting viewpoints of people involved in the decision making process-biocentric vs. anthropocentric.

People with biocentric viewpoint base their arguments on an assumption that human-use of resource will always have negative impact on the health of the resource and in that process they completely ignore the role of locals in management of resource; whereas people with anthropocentric viewpoint are biased towards protection of rights of locals.
There is also problem of certain species getting over-attention, as a result of which, other species that are important part of ecosystem too get ignored. For example, in India, Tigers have been receiving a lot of attention in the past decade. It is claimed that since Tigers are an umbrella species, its conservation will ensure conservation of other species too. Scientists have raised concerns about tigers or other charismatic species being given an over-importance and have argued that due attention to other languishing species should also be given to ensure a more unbiased, effective and a holistic conservation of biodiversity.
 For harmonious co-existence of man-wildlife, there needs to be a balance between anthropocentric and biocentric viewpoints where relationship between human use and biodiversity needs can be fully understood and incorporated in the decision making system. There needs to be a growing appreciation and understanding of each and every species, the role that every species plays, the role of human-wildlife interaction. An increased awareness and education is need of the hour that will sensitize the population and in turn will lead to transformation of values and attitudes of people.

Concluding thoughts

Natural resource governance policies in India are ridden with challenges like: corruption, nepotism, ambiguous policies, lack of proper policy implementation and unequal resource distribution. To overcome those challenges, people working in developing policies for environment need broader awareness of diverse and multidimensional values associated with natural resources. This increased awareness is vital not just for the community, but for the media, private sectors and other key actors involved in natural resource governance.

 Therefore, multi-stakeholder dialogue in 
development of policy for issues like forestry, water resource management, mining, biodiversity conservation is crucial. Such interaction deems participation of potential stakeholders associated with resources from grassroots level to top agency level. Conflicts, most likely are inevitable in such situations. However, peace can be attained through facilitating deep dialogues, forgiveness, going beyond religion, inculcating a strong motivation for sustaining resources, making it available for present and future generations along with appreciating culture and values system of individuals associated with the natural resource.


1. Allen, G. M. and E. M. Gould (1986): "Complexity, Wickedness, and Public Forests", Journal of Forestry 84: 20-23
2. Arora, D. (1994): "From State Regulation to People's Participation: Case of Forest Management in India", Economic and Political Weekly 29 (12): 691-698
3. Fuhr, L and Chemnitz, C. (2012): “To have or have not - Resource Equity in a Finite World", Heinrich-Böll-Stifung, Berlin
4. Ghate, R., Nagendra, Harini. (2005): "Role of Monitoring in Institutional Performance: Forest Management in Maharashtra, India", Conservation and Society 3(2): 509-532
5. Hardin, G. (1968): "The Tragedy of the Commons", Science 162 No. 3859: 1243-1248
6. Nagendra,  H.,  Karmacharya, and  B. Karna (2005): "Evaluating Forest Management in Nepal: Views across Space and Time", Ecology and Society 10 (1)
7. Ostrom, E. (1990): "Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action", Cambridge, UK, Cambridge University Press
8. Ostrom, E., M. A. Janssen and J. M. Anderies (2007): "Going beyond Panaceas", Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 104(39): 15176-15178
9. Poffenberger, M. and B. McGean, Eds. (1996): "Village Voices, Forest Choices: Joint Forest Management in India", Delhi, Oxford University Press
10. Shindler, B. and L. A. Cramer (1999): "Shifting Public Values for Forest Management: Making Sense of Wicked Problems", Western Journal of Applied Forestry 14(1): 28-34

Natural resource management refers to the management of natural resources such as land, water, soil, plants and animals, with a particular focus on how management affects the quality of life for both present and future generations (stewardship).

Natural resource management deals with managing the way in which people and natural landscapes interact. It brings together land use planning, water management, biodiversity conservation, and the future sustainability of industries like agriculture, mining, tourism, fisheries and forestry. It recognises that people and their livelihoods rely on the health and productivity of our landscapes, and their actions as stewards of the land play a critical role in maintaining this health and productivity.[1]

Natural resource management specifically focuses on a scientific and technical understanding of resources and ecology and the life-supporting capacity of those resources.[2]Environmental management is also similar to natural resource management. In academic contexts, the sociology of natural resources is closely related to, but distinct from, natural resource management.


The emphasis on sustainability can be traced back to early attempts to understand the ecological nature of North Americanrangelands in the late 19th century, and the resource conservation movement of the same time.[3][4] This type of analysis coalesced in the 20th century with recognition that preservationist conservation strategies had not been effective in halting the decline of natural resources. A more integrated approach was implemented recognising the intertwined social, cultural, economic and political aspects of resource management.[5] A more holistic, national and even global form evolved, from the Brundtland Commission and the advocacy of sustainable development.

In 2005 the government of New South Wales, established a Standard for Quality Natural Resource Management,[6] to improve the consistency of practice, based on an adaptive management approach.

In the United States, the most active areas of natural resource management are wildlife management often associated with ecotourism and rangeland management. In Australia, water sharing, such as the Murray Darling Basin Plan and catchment management are also significant.

Ownership regimes[edit]

Natural resource management approaches can be categorised according to the kind and right of stakeholders, natural resources:

  • State property: Ownership and control over the use of resources is in hands of the state. Individuals or groups may be able to make use of the resources, but only at the permission of the state. National forest, National parks and military reservations are some US examples.
  • Private property: Any property owned by a defined individual or corporate entity. Both the benefit and duties to the resources fall to the owner(s). Private land is the most common example.
  • Common property: It is a private property of a group. The group may vary in size, nature and internal structure e.g. indigenous neighbours of village. Some examples of common property are community forests.
  • Non-property (open access): There is no definite owner of these properties. Each potential user has equal ability to use it as they wish. These areas are the most exploited. It is said that "Everybody's property is nobody's property". An example is a lake fishery. Common land may exist without ownership, in which case in the UK it is vested in a local authority.
  • Hybrid: Many ownership regimes governing natural resources will contain parts of more than one of the regimes described above, so natural resource managers need to consider the impact of hybrid regimes. An example of such a hybrid is native vegetation management in NSW, Australia, where legislation recognises a public interest in the preservation of native vegetation, but where most native vegetation exists on private land.[7]

Stakeholder analysis[edit]

Stakeholder analysis originated from business management practices and has been incorporated into natural resource management in ever growing popularity. Stakeholder analysis in the context of natural resource management identifies distinctive interest groups affected in the utilisation and conservation of natural resources.[8]

There is no definitive definition of a stakeholder as illustrated in the table below. Especially in natural resource management as it is difficult to determine who has a stake and this will differ according to each potential stakeholder.[9]

Different approaches to who is a stakeholder:[9]

SourceWho is a stakeholderKind of research
Freeman.[10]‘‘can affect or is affected by the achievement of the organization's objectives’’Business Management
Bowie[11]‘‘without whose support the organization would cease to exist’’Business Management
Clarkson[12]‘‘...persons or groups that have, or claim, ownership, rights, or interests in a corporation and its activities, past, present, or future.’’Business Management
Grimble and Wellard[13]‘‘...any group of people, organized or unorganized, who share a common interest or stake in a particular issue or system...’’Natural resource


Gass et al.[14]‘‘...any individual, group and institution who would potentially be affected, whether positively or negatively, by a specified event, process or change.’’Natural resource


Buanes et al[15]‘‘...any group or individual who may directly or indirectly affect—or be affected—...planning to be at least potential stakeholders.’’Natural resource


Brugha and Varvasovszky‘‘...actors who have an interest in the issue under consideration, who are affected by the issue, or who—because of their position—have or could have an active or passive influence on the decision making and implementation process.’’Health policy
ODA[16]‘‘... persons, groups or institutions with interests in a project or programme.’’Development

Therefore, it is dependent upon the circumstances of the stakeholders involved with natural resource as to which definition and subsequent theory is utilised.

Billgrena and Holme[9] identified the aims of stakeholder analysis in natural resource management:

  • Identify and categorise the stakeholders that may have influence
  • Develop an understanding of why changes occur
  • Establish who can make changes happen
  • How to best manage natural resources

This gives transparency and clarity to policy making allowing stakeholders to recognise conflicts of interest and facilitate resolutions.[9][17] There are numerous stakeholder theories such as Mitchell et al.[18] however Grimble[17] created a framework of stages for a Stakeholder Analysis in natural resource management. Grimble[17] designed this framework to ensure that the analysis is specific to the essential aspects of natural resource management.

Stages in Stakeholder analysis:[17]

  1. Clarify objectives of the analysis
  2. Place issues in a systems context
  3. Identify decision-makers and stakeholders
  4. Investigate stakeholder interests and agendas
  5. Investigate patterns of inter-action and dependence (e.g. conflicts and compatibilities, trade-offs and synergies)


Grimble and Wellard[13] established that Stakeholder analysis in natural resource management is most relevant where issued can be characterised as;

Case studies:

In the case of the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, a comprehensive stakeholder analysis would have been relevant and the Batwa people would have potentially been acknowledged as stakeholders preventing the loss of people's livelihoods and loss of life.[13][17]

Nepal, Indonesia and Koreas' community forestry are successful examples of how stakeholder analysis can be incorporated into the management of natural resources. This allowed the stakeholders to identify their needs and level of involvement with the forests.


  • Natural resource management stakeholder analysis tends to include too many stakeholders which can create problems in of its self as suggested by Clarkson. ‘‘Stakeholder theory should not be used to weave a basket big enough to hold the world's misery.’’[19]
  • Starik[20] proposed that nature needs to be represented as stakeholder. However this has been rejected by many scholars as it would be difficult to find appropriate representation and this representation could also be disputed by other stakeholders causing further issues.[9]
  • Stakeholder analysis can be used exploited and abused in order to marginalise other stakeholders.[8]
  • Identifying the relevant stakeholders for participatory processes is complex as certain stakeholder groups may have been excluded from previous decisions.[21]
  • On-going conflicts and lack of trust between stakeholders can prevent compromise and resolutions.[21]

Alternatives/ Complementary forms of analysis:

Management of the resources[edit]

Natural resource management issues are inherently complex. They involve the ecological cycles, hydrological cycles, climate, animals, plants and geography, etc. All these are dynamic and inter-related. A change in one of them may have far reaching and/or long term impacts which may even be irreversible. In addition to the natural systems, natural resource management also has to manage various stakeholders and their interests, policies, politics, geographical boundaries, economic implications and the list goes on. It is a very difficult to satisfy all aspects at the same time. This results in conflicting situations.

After the United Nations Conference for the Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, most nations subscribed to new principles for the integrated management of land, water, and forests. Although program names vary from nation to nation, all express similar aims.

The various approaches applied to natural resource management include:

  • Top-down (command and control)
  • Community-based natural resource management
  • Adaptive management
  • Precautionary approach
  • Integrated natural resource management


The community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) approach combines conservation objectives with the generation of economic benefits for rural communities. The three key assumptions being that: locals are better placed to conserve natural resources, people will conserve a resource only if benefits exceed the costs of conservation, and people will conserve a resource that is linked directly to their quality of life.[5] When a local people's quality of life is enhanced, their efforts and commitment to ensure the future well-being of the resource are also enhanced.[22] Regional and community based natural resource management is also based on the principle of subsidiarity.

The United Nations advocates CBNRM in the Convention on Biodiversity and the Convention to Combat Desertification. Unless clearly defined, decentralised NRM can result an ambiguous socio-legal environment with local communities racing to exploit natural resources while they can e.g. forest communities in central Kalimantan (Indonesia).[23]

A problem of CBNRM is the difficulty of reconciling and harmonising the objectives of socioeconomic development, biodiversity protection and sustainable resource utilisation.[24] The concept and conflicting interests of CBNRM,[25][26] show how the motives behind the participation are differentiated as either people-centred (active or participatory results that are truly empowering)[27] or planner-centred (nominal and results in passive recipients). Understanding power relations is crucial to the success of community based NRM. Locals may be reluctant to challenge government recommendations for fear of losing promised benefits.

CBNRM is based particularly on advocacy by nongovernmental organizations working with local groups and communities, on the one hand, and national and transnational organizations, on the other, to build and extend new versions of environmental and social advocacy that link social justice and environmental management agendas[28] with both direct and indirect benefits observed including a share of revenues, employment, diversification of livelihoods and increased pride and identity. Ecological and societal successes and failures of CBNRM projects have been documented.[29][30] CBNRM has raised new challenges, as concepts of community, territory, conservation, and indigenous are worked into politically varied plans and programs in disparate sites. Warner and Jones[31] address strategies for effectively managing conflict in CBNRM.

The capacity of indigenous communities to conserve natural resources has been acknowledged by the Australian Government with the Caring for Country[32] Program. Caring for our Country is an Australian Government initiative jointly administered by the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. These Departments share responsibility for delivery of the Australian Government's environment and sustainable agriculture programs, which have traditionally been broadly referred to under the banner of ‘natural resource management’. These programs have been delivered regionally, through 56 State government bodies, successfully allowing regional communities to decide the natural resource priorities for their regions.[33]

More broadly, a research study based in Tanzania and the Pacific researched what motivates communities to adopt CBNRM's and found that aspects of the specific CBNRM program, of the community that has adopted the program, and of the broader social-ecological context together shape the why CBNRM's are adopted[34]. However, overall, program adoption seemed to mirror the relative advantage of CBNRM programs to local villagers and villager access to external technical assistance[34].

Governance is seen as a key consideration for delivering community-based or regional natural resource management. In the State of NSW, the 13 catchment management authorities (CMAs) are overseen by the Natural Resources Commission (NRC), responsible for undertaking audits of the effectiveness of regional natural resource management programs.[35]

Adaptive management[edit]

The primary methodological approach adopted by catchment management authorities (CMAs) for regional natural resource management in Australia is adaptive management.[6]

This approach includes recognition that adaption occurs through a process of ‘plan-do-review-act’. It also recognises seven key components that should be considered for quality natural resource management practice:

Integrated natural resource management[edit]

Integrated natural resource management (INRM) is a process of managing natural resources in a systematic way, which includes multiple aspects of natural resource use (biophysical, socio-political, and economic) meet production goals of producers and other direct users (e.g., food security, profitability, risk aversion) as well as goals of the wider community (e.g., poverty alleviation, welfare of future generations, environmental conservation). It focuses on sustainability and at the same time tries to incorporate all possible stakeholders from the planning level itself, reducing possible future conflicts. The conceptual basis of INRM has evolved in recent years through the convergence of research in diverse areas such as sustainable land use, participatory planning, integrated watershed management, and adaptive management.[36][37][37] INRM is being used extensively and been successful in regional and community based natural management.[38]

Frameworks and modelling[edit]

There are various frameworks and computer models developed to assist natural resource management.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

GIS is a powerful analytical tool as it is capable of overlaying datasets to identify links. A bush regeneration scheme can be informed by the overlay of rainfall, cleared land and erosion.[39] In Australia, Metadata Directories such as NDAR provide data on Australian natural resources such as vegetation, fisheries, soils and water.[40] These are limited by the potential for subjective input and data manipulation.

Natural Resources Management Audit Frameworks

The NSW Government in Australia has published an audit framework[41] for natural resource management, to assist the establishment of a performance audit role in the governance of regional natural resource management. This audit framework builds from other established audit methodologies, including performance audit, environmental audit and internal audit. Audits undertaken using this framework have provided confidence to stakeholders, identified areas for improvement and described policy expectations for the general public.[42][43]

The Australian Government has established a framework for auditing greenhouse emissions and energy reporting, which closely follows Australian Standards for Assurance Engagements.

The Australian Government is also currently preparing an audit framework for auditing water management, focussing on the implementation of the Murray Darling Basin Plan.

Other elements[edit]

Biodiversity Conservation

The issue of biodiversity conservation is regarded as an important element in natural resource management. What is biodiversity? Biodiversity is a comprehensive concept, which is a description of the extent of natural diversity. Gaston and Spicer[44] (p. 3) point out that biodiversity is "the variety of life" and relate to different kinds of "biodiversity organization". According to Gray[45] (p. 154), the first widespread use of the definition of biodiversity, was put forward by the United Nations in 1992, involving different aspects of biological diversity.

Precautionary Biodiversity Management

The "threats" wreaking havoc on biodiversity include; habitat fragmentation, putting a strain on the already stretched biological resources; forest deterioration and deforestation; the invasion of "alien species" and "climate change"[46]( p. 2). Since these threats have received increasing attention from environmentalists and the public, the precautionary management of biodiversity becomes an important part of natural resources management. According to Cooney, there are material measures to carry out precautionary management of biodiversity in natural resource management.

Concrete "policy tools"

Cooney claims that the policy making is dependent on "evidences", relating to "high standard of proof", the forbidding of special "activities" and "information and monitoring requirements". Before making the policy of precaution, categorical evidence is needed. When the potential menace of "activities" is regarded as a critical and "irreversible" endangerment, these "activities" should be forbidden. For example, since explosives and toxicants will have serious consequences to endanger human and natural environment, the South Africa Marine Living Resources Act promulgated a series of policies on completely forbidding to "catch fish" by using explosives and toxicants.

Administration and guidelines

According to Cooney, there are 4 methods to manage the precaution of biodiversity in natural resources management;

  1. "Ecosystem-based management" including "more risk-averse and precautionary management", where "given prevailing uncertainty regarding ecosystem structure, function, and inter-specific interactions, precaution demands an ecosystem rather than single-species approach to management".
  2. "Adaptive management" is "a management approach that expressly tackles the uncertainty and dynamism of complex systems".
  3. "Environmental impact assessment" and exposure ratings decrease the "uncertainties" of precaution, even though it has deficiencies, and
  4. "Protectionist approaches", which "most frequently links to" biodiversity conservation in natural resources management.
Land management

In order to have a sustainable environment, understanding and using appropriate management strategies is important. In terms of understanding, Young[47] emphasises some important points of land management:

  • Comprehending the processes of nature including ecosystem, water, soils
  • Using appropriate and adapting management systems in local situations
  • Cooperation between scientists who have knowledge and resources and local people who have knowledge and skills

Dale et al. (2000)[48] study has shown that there are five fundamental and helpful ecological principles for the land manager and people who need them. The ecological principles relate to time, place, species, disturbance and the landscape and they interact in many ways.It is suggested that land managers could follow these guidelines:

  • Examine impacts of local decisions in a regional context, and the effects on natural resources.
  • Plan for long-term change and unexpected events.
  • Preserve rare landscape elements and associated species.
  • Avoid land uses that deplete natural resources.
  • Retain large contiguous or connected areas that contain critical habitats.
  • Minimize the introduction and spread of non-native species.
  • Avoid or compensate for the effects of development on ecological processes.
  • Implement land-use and land-management practices that are compatible with the natural potential of the area.

See also[edit]


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The Bureau of Land Management in the United States manages America's public lands, totaling approximately 264 million acres (1,070,000 km2) or one-eighth of the landmass of the country.

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