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Ecological Applications


Ecological Society of America

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This article presents the ‘‘Linkages to Public Land’’ (LPL) Framework, a general but comprehensive data-gathering and analysis approach aimed at informing citizen and agency decision making about the social environment of public land. This social assessment and planning approach identifies and categorizes various types of linkages that people have to public land and guides the tasks of finding and using information on people in those linkages. Linkages are defined as the ‘‘coupling mechanisms’’ that explain how and why humans interact with ecosystems, while linkage analyses are empirical investigations contextualized both temporally and geographically. The conceptual, legal, and theoretical underpinnings of five basic linkage categories (tribal, use, interest, neighboring land, and decision making) and further refinement into subcategories are explained. These categories are based upon the complex property and decision-making regimes governing public land. Applying an ‘‘inside-out’’ analytic perspective, the LPL Framework assesses the social environment inside public land units and traces linkages out into the larger social environment, instead of assessing the outside social environment (communities or stakeholders) and assuming linkages exist between the social entities and public lands, as is generally done in social assessments. The LPL Framework can be utilized in management activities such as assessing baseline conditions and designing monitoring protocols, planning and evaluating management alternatives, analyzing impacts of decisions, structuring public involvement and conflict management efforts, and conducting collaborative learning and stewardship activities. The framework enhances understanding of human dimensions of ecosystem management by providing a conceptual map of human linkages to public land and a stepwise process for focusing and contextualizing social analyses. The framework facilitates analysis of the compatibilities, conflicts, and trade-offs between various linkages, and between cumulative human linkages and capabilities of public land to sustain them. While the LPL Framework was developed for use in planning for U.S. National Forests, it could be applied to other types of public land in the United States and adapted and extended to public lands and common property areas in other countries.


Published by the Ecological Society of America (ESA)

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