Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Oregon
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Wilkins, K., Pejchar, L., Carroll, S. L., Jones, M. S., Walker, S. E., Shinbrot, X. A., ... & Reid, R. S. (2021). Collaborative conservation in the United States: A review of motivations, goals, and outcomes. Biological Conservation, 259, 109165.


For centuries, communities around the globe have worked together to manage resources—a process often referred to as community-based conservation. More recently in the US, diverse stakeholders have partnered to address complex environmental issues that span land ownership or administrative boundaries, calling these efforts collaborative conservation. Reviews of community-based and collaborative conservation have historically focused on developing countries. To synthesize published information on U.S.-focused groups, we conducted a literature review with the following objectives: 1) characterize geographic distribution, types of participants, and sources of funding for these groups; 2) assess issues motivating group formation, goals, activities to achieve those goals, and outcomes; 3) identify whether these goals, activities, and outcomes were biophysical, social, and/or economic. To accomplish these objectives, we searched for relevant peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters, and reports in online databases from 1800's-2017. Our review resulted in 245 documents describing 296 collaborative conservation groups across all 50 states (primarily the Western U.S.) and the District of Columbia. The top three issues motivating collaborative group formation included impacts of land and resource degradation on livelihoods, water quality and management, and managing land and resources across ownership boundaries. We found that there was little published information on the outcomes of group activities (16% of groups). For the limited number of groups for which the literature reported outcomes, there was no relationship between positive outcomes and group characteristics. Our findings suggest that renewed efforts to evaluate the impact of collaboration on conservation are warranted and could support learning and improved action.