Collaboration in natural resource governance: reconciling stakeholder expectations in deer management in Scotland

Althea Davies, Rehema White

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86 Citations (Scopus)


The challenges of integrated, adaptive and ecosystem management are leading government agencies to adopt participatory modes of engagement. Collaborative governance is a form of participation in which stakeholders co-produce goals and strategies and share responsibilities and resources. We assess the potential and challenges of collaborative governance as a mechanism to provide an integrated, ecosystem approach to natural resource management, using red deer in Scotland as a case study. Collaborative Deer Management Groups offer a well-established example of a 'bridging organisation', intended to reduce costs and facilitate decision making and learning across institutions and scales. We examine who initiates collaborative processes and why, what roles different actors adopt and how these factors influence the outcomes, particularly at a time of changing values, management and legislative priorities. Our findings demonstrate the need for careful consideration of where and how shared responsibility might be best implemented and sustained as state agencies often remain key to the process, despite the partnership intention. Differing interpretations between agencies and landowners of the degree of autonomy and division of responsibilities involved in 'collaboration' can create tension, while the diversity of landowner priorities brings additional challenges for defining shared goals in red deer management and in other cases. Effective maintenance depends on appropriate role allocation and adoption of responsibilities, definition of convergent values and goals, and establishing communication and trust in institutional networks. Options that may help private stakeholders offset the costs of accepting responsibility for delivering public benefits need to be explicitly addressed to build capacity and support adaptation. This study indicates that collaborative governance has the potential to help reconcile statutory obligations with stakeholder empowerment. The potential of collaboration to reduce the costs of sustainable management remains contentious and, in times of increasing resource constraints, the potential mismatch between resource investment and anticipated goals is likely to become a critical issue, which may challenge the goals and capacity of the state and existing managers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)160-169
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2012

Bibliographical note

This research was funded by RELU (RES 227-025-0014) and ESRC (RES-811-25-0002). Thanks to all the stakeholders in the case study areas and participants at Scottish Natural Heritage.


  • collaborative governance
  • participation
  • social learning
  • red deer management
  • cervus elaphus


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