Wicked Wisdoms: Illuminations of Conceptual Capacities among Local Leaders of the Yellowstone River
The Yellowstone River is the longest free-flowing river in the lower 48 states. Traveling unfettered for more than 600 before its confluence with the Missouri River, the river and its basin support wide ranging natural resource based economic activities, including mining, oil and gas production, extensive wildlife habitat, ranching, farming and tourism. In 1997, various state and federal entities began an initiative to develop and implement holistic management plans for the river corridor. This study, which analyses data gathered from 68 interviews with civic leaders working in jurisdictions all along the river corridor, endeavors to understand how these officials comprehend the complex interaction of scientific, technical, political, social and economic variables, the wicked problems that characterize management efforts along the river. The study also seeks to develop a clearer understanding of how these leaders conceptualize their roles amid such complexities. Using a phenomenological interpretation, the findings reveal that local leaders have and recognize their own capacity to understand and deal with wicked problems. The article concludes with preliminary suggestions of how this capacity might contribute to capacity of these officials and their communities' to engage in collaborative or participatory management efforts.
Key words: Yellowstone River; holistic management plans; river corridor
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