Examining Collaboration within U.S. National Park Service Advisory Committees
Keywords:Collaborative governance, advisory committees, stakeholder participation, public participation, park management
This study develops an evaluative tool for assessing collaboration within U.S. National Park Service (NPS) Federal Advisory Committees. Advisory committees are one of the mechanisms the NPS uses for active community participation. However, questions concerning the effective use of advisory committees have arisen in recent years, and because of this, a mass review of these committees, ordered by the Trump Administration, has led to questions about the efficacy and success of advisory committees. While a traditional metric that is used to judge success of these committees is the percent of recommendations that are implemented by the NPS, this metric does not recognize the synergistic benefits these forums provide for interaction, discussion, and collaboration. Drawing on an index of nine indicators that are extracted from the body of literature on collaborative governance, such as leadership and openness, a novel tool was created to measure collaboration within advisory committees. Through an analysis of committee meeting minutes spanning six cases, this paper finds that advisory committees tend to be collaborative and demonstrate that these committees are more than just a veil of participation or simply filling a required part of the public participation process. Committees were also found to play a valuable partnership role in the parks, acting as a liaison for the local communities and increasing transparency of NPS decision making.
From the information presented, formal federal advisory committees offer a means to build greater collaborative partnerships with local representatives and experts. While members of the public did play an active role in a few of the committees analyzed, greater attention should be given to inclusion of members of the local populace during committee meetings, if one of the primary purposes of the specific committee is to garner the support of the local communities and strengthen the recommendations for adoption. The index and tool developed in this paper provides a method for management officials to further evaluate their committees, and their interactions with representatives and the local populace more generally, to better understand the collaborative role their committees can play. Although this paper focused on committees with ties to local communities, the tool and the insights garnered on key collaborative indicators, could be applied too national-level committees and non-FACA committees.
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