Breath of Clarity

Knowledge and Inclusion in Natural Resource Management


The learning materials from this week demonstrate a lack of diversity in the natural resource management arena. A particular group’s access to resources over the course of history defines its current power in the environmental management context (Finney 2014). Specifically, the outdoors and public lands favor the white people above people of other races (Finney 2014). Black, indigenous and people of color communities are disenfranchised in all of the ways of engaging with the outdoors. For example, studies show there is a lack of diversity at the National Park Service (NPS) in terms of both employees and visitors (Finney 2014). However, having exclusionary practices results in losing the opportunity to gain knowledge from a wide array of life experiences ( Robbins 2006). Various people prioritized environmental issues based upon individual needs and understood environmental issues based upon their personal backgrounds (Robbins 2006). From there, there is a plethora of new ideas that are birthed from these unique launching points. Moreover, studies revealed local people have a solid understanding of the resources embedded in its natural home (Robbins 2006). It does not make sense to not include knowledge that is readily available. There is no harm in hearing input from a diverse collection of locals. At the least, I see their perspectives useful for brainstorming and being verified by a more formal scientific investigation.


From the stakeholder board project, I learned the optimal way to protect a waterbody for the long-run is to involve locals in the restoration process.

The relationship between the Karuk tribe and the Klamath river contains a unique motivation and commitment compared to the link amongst other groups and the water body. Non-indigenous tactics are typically directed by physical interventions, such as fish passage, channel reconfiguration, bank stabilization, floodplain reconnection, and in-stream habitat improvement. However, there is a gap in the conventional approaches and priorities (Fox et al 2017). On the other hand, Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) involves negotiation between the tribal people and federal agencies (McCool 2018). A Ottawa and Chippewa councilor explained, considering the river may not look at matters the same way restorationists are viewing the elements their aiming to revitalize, it is logical for indigenous people “to talk to the design engineers and the consultants that work on these projects and have them, maybe not understand it at a spiritual level, but let us explain at an ecological level, supported by data, with that spirituality behind it” (Fox et al 2017, 532). A tribal nation elected official from New Zealand’s Waikato-Tainui noted, “to understand what the river needs, we have to look at what the river sees. Getting community members out on the river helps us view the world from her eyes” (Fox et al 2017, 532). Direct engagement with the river enables indigenous people to learn respect and appropriate solutions not only from their ancestors, rather also from the river itself (Willette et al 2016). Moreover, The Waitkato-Tainui official stated, “we’ll know our Nanny [the Waikato River] is on a healthy path when she can take care of herself” (Fox et al 2017, 532).


The major challenges to inclusion and collaboration is rooted in historical inequalities that have led to systems of oppression (Finney 2014). Natural resource managers must focus on understanding the needs of all types of locals living in a given area. Additionally, the media needs to be better at broadcasting images and videos of colored people enjoying the outdoors. Insofar as it becomes perceived that many different types of people immerse themselves in our nation’s natural places, they will become stakeholders with valuable opinions.


Fox, Coleen, Nicholas James Reo, Dale A. Turner, JoAnne Cook, Frank Dituri, Brett Fessell, James Jenkins, Aimee Johnson, Terina M. Rakena, Chris Riley, Ashleigh Turner, Julian Williams, Market Wilson. 2017. “‘The River is Us; The River is in Our Veins’: Re- Defining River Restoration in Three Indigenous Communities”. Sustainability Science. 12. pp: 521-533.

Finney, Carolyn. 2014. Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors. Pp. 25-31, 32-51, 67-91.

McCool, Daniel. 2018. “Integrated Water Resources Management and Collaboration: The Failure of the Klamath River Agreements”. Policy History. 30 (1). pp: 83-104.

Robbins, Paul. 2006. The Politics of Barstool Biology: Environmental Knowledge and Power in Greater Northern Yellowstone. Geoforum 37(2): 185-199.

Willette, Mirranda and Kari Norgaard. 2016. “You Got to Have Fish: Families, Environmental Decline and Cultural Reproduction”. Families, Relationship and Societies. 5 (3). pp: 375-392.

Comment by Genevieve Brune:
Hello Mary,

I really like how you described and summarized the problems with inclusion and diversity in the world of natural resource management. Your example is a very relevant one for many projects occurring today. As we saw in the reading this week, locals have a special connection and knowledge with nearby resources and lands (Robbins 2006, 190). Further, I think specific tribes in particular can have a really great insight on the management of resources, and also a special knowledge of the spiritual significance around the land. As you say in your post, it is absolutely critical that various tribes are included in the stakeholder analysis, because they can bring a different perspective and insight that others cannot. I think that if agencies spent more time with these relationships, then it would pave a smoother path for project completion. The example that comes to mind for me is the controversy over the Keystone XL Pipeline placement. In this case, the US Army Corps of Engineers did not spend enough time working with the nearby tribes, creating a significant conflict and public media focus on the project (Nauman 2020). Perhaps a better location with less conflict could have been found for the pipeline if more effort was put into speaking with these tribes.


Nauman, Talli. 2020. “Pipeline loses permit, but construction continues.” Native Sun News Today.

My Reply:
Hi Genevieve,

Thanks for the insight. It is interesting to consider the role media coverage plays in fulfilling stakeholder interests. Stakeholder media can be different, and in some ways stronger, than the influence of traditional news media (Hunter et al. 2013). Media controlled by stakeholder communities can exercise powerful influence on the strategic agendas of corporate firms (Hunter et al. 2013). Specifically, there are strategies stakeholder groups can use in order to achieve desired outcomes (Hunter et al. 2013). These communication tools have altered the dynamics of stakeholder influence (Hunter et al. 2013). On the one hand, they allow a stakeholder group to have greater independence from and influential collaboration with mainstream media as well as with other stakeholders (Hunter et al. 2013). They also augment the scope and momentum of their adversarial campaigns (Hunter et al. 2013). Clearly, stakeholder media is quite efficient in making strides towards fulfilling a mission.

Besiou et al. (2013) modeled the agenda-setting strategies of stakeholders equipped with online and other media in three cases involving protests against multinational corporations. The authors’ theoretical objective was to widen agenda-setting theory to a dynamic and nonlinear networked stakeholder context, in which stakeholder-controlled media assume part of the role previously ascribed to mainstream media (Besiou et al. 2013). They suggested system dynamics methodology as a tool to analyze complex stakeholder interactions and the effects of their agendas on other stakeholders (Besiou et al. 2013). The study revealed largely similar dynamics of interactions occur among stakeholders in these cases, and that the costs for managements of maintaining their agendas steadily rises (Besiou et al. 2013). That said, the authors concluded that the “web of watchdogs” comprises a powerful reason for managers to engage in responsibility negotiations with their stakeholders (Besiou et al. 2013).


Besiou, Maria, Mark Lee Hunter and Luk N. Van Wassenhove. 2013. “A Web of Watchdogs: Stakeholder Media Networks and Agenda-Setting in Response to Corporate Initiatives”. Journal of Business Ethics. 118(4): 709-729.

Hunter, Mark Lee, Luk N. Van Wassenhove, Maria Besiou and Mignon van Halderen. 2013. “The Agenda-Setting Power of Stakeholder Media”. California Management Review. 56(1): 24-49. University of California Press.