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The Role of Social Capital in Natural Resource Policy Development
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Social capital is used as a framework to focus on the nexus of society and natural resources in three case studies in the Texas Coastal Bend, USA. Social capital incorporates diverse social phenomena such as trust and reciprocity, engagement and cooperation, common rules and norms, and social networks. Capital exists in the relations among actors and the resources embedded in them (e.g. information and influence) that provide valuable assets that can be leveraged for individual or collective gain. I examined social capital as a resource for potential community involvement in whooping crane management using qualitative analysis of semi-structured interviews of 35 individuals. Community networks of reciprocity and trust formed bonding ties strengthened by active engagement; shared values and community identity; and institutions fostering leadership and service. Bridging ties offered opportunities for knowledge sharing and legitimacy. Social capital in this community provided a potential resource to save time and money in addressing ongoing efforts to protect this charismatic endangered species. A case study of collaborative modeling provided an opportunity for stakeholders to learn more about an estuarine system and strengthen network ties. Using Bloom’s Taxonomy, I demonstrated how this social learning process led to increased cognitive skills in understanding the estuarine system. Through engagement and networking, participants established social capital useful for addressing watershed issues. Affiliation network analysis of five water management groups over a ten-year period was based on meeting attendance records. I examined stakeholder heterogeneity within each group. Network density provided insight as to how actors are connected and the likelihood that groups function cohesively. Network measures of betweenness and eigenvector centrality indicated important individuals within the networks that serve as leaders within and bridges between groups. Important brokering roles within the networks, of connecting otherwise un-connected groups, were filled by regional water authorities and conservation organizations. Network visualization showed the differences and similarities, and integrity of all groups. Together, these studies demonstrated how social capital is an invaluable resource for successful management of natural resources in the Texas Coastal Bend.
Natural resource management
Natural resource policy
Social network analysis
Ragland, Chara J (2015). The Role of Social Capital in Natural Resource Policy Development. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from