Center for Behavior, Institutions and the Environment / CBIE Working Papers / Conditions for success in natural resource management by volunteer-based organizations: A study of lake management organizations in Vilas County, Wisconsin, USA.

Conditions for success in natural resource management by volunteer-based organizations: A study of lake management organizations in Vilas County, Wisconsin, USA.

CBIE_WP-2020-004

Abstract

Lakefront property owners form volunteer-based organizations to conserve and manage lakes. In Vilas County, Wisconsin, U.S.A., 115 common pool resource management organizations are organized around lakes. Despite a robust literature on institutional design, few studies endeavor a mid-size comparison of resource management organizations in a single geographic context. We address this gap by comparing thirty-one Vilas County, Wisconsin lake organizations using data collected through semi-structured interviews, websites, and agency databases during the summer of 2019. We systematically compared the cases using crisp-set qualitative comparative analysis, specifically analyzing how the eight Ostrom institutional design principles lead to different outcomes for the lake social-ecological system. We find that the institutional design principles used were similar across the thirty-one organizations studied. This can partly be explained by the fact that the county and state agencies provide template rules for the bylaws of the organizations. Though the rules-in-use were consistent, the goals of the organizations differed. We found that the organizations have different preferences for how the lakes should be used and managed partly because lake organization members do not rely on lakes for their livelihood. What appeared to be a natural experiment to study institutional design, upon closer inspection, revealed diverse goals whose outcomes are influenced by combinations of environmental, social, and institutional conditions.

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