Who collaborates and why: Assessment and diagnostic of governance network integration for salmon restoration in Whidbey Basin, Puget Sound, WA

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Journal of Environmental Management



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Governance silos are settings in which different organizations work in isolation and avoid sharing information and strategies. Siloes are a fundamental challenge for environmental planning and problem solving, which generally requires collaboration. Siloes can be overcome by creating governance networks. Studying the structure and function of these networks is important for understanding how to create institutional arrangements that can respond to the biophysical dynamics of a specific natural resource system (i.e., social-ecological, or institutional fit). Using the case of salmon restoration in a sub-basin of Puget Sound, USA, we assess network integration, considering three different reasons for network collaborations (i.e., mandated, funded, and shared interest relationships) and analyze how these different collaboration types relate to productivity based on practitioner's assessments. We also illustrate how specific and targeted network interventions might enhance the network. To do so, we use a mixed methods approach that combines quantitative social network analysis (SNA) and qualitative interview analysis. Overall, the sub-basin's governance network is fairly well integrated, but several concerning gaps exist. Funded, mandated, and shared interest relationships lead to different network patterns. Mandated relationships are associated with lower productivity than shared interest relationships, highlighting the benefit of genuine collaboration in collaborative watershed governance. Lastly, quantitative and qualitative data comparisons strengthen recent calls to incorporate geographic space and the role of individual actors versus organizational culture into natural resource governance research using SNA.

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