Natural resource management

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The Tongass National Forest in Alaska is managed by the United States Forest Service Tongass national forest juneau img 7501.jpg
The Tongass National Forest in Alaska is managed by the United States Forest Service

Natural resource management (NRM) is the management of natural resources such as land, water, soil, plants and animals, with a particular focus on how management affects the quality of life for both present and future generations (stewardship).


Natural resource management deals with managing the way in which people and natural landscapes interact. It brings together natural heritage management, land use planning, water management, bio-diversity conservation, and the future sustainability of industries like agriculture, mining, tourism, fisheries and forestry. It recognizes that people and their livelihoods rely on the health and productivity of our landscapes, and their actions as stewards of the land play a critical role in maintaining this health and productivity. [1]

Natural resource management specifically focuses on a scientific and technical understanding of resources and ecology and the life-supporting capacity of those resources. [2] Environmental management is similar to natural resource management. In academic contexts, the sociology of natural resources is closely related to, but distinct from, natural resource management.


The Bureau of Land Management in the United States manages America's public lands, totaling approximately 264 million acres (1,070,000 km2) or one-eighth of the landmass of the country. Logo of the United States Bureau of Land Management.svg
The Bureau of Land Management in the United States manages America's public lands, totaling approximately 264 million acres (1,070,000 km2) or one-eighth of the landmass of the country.

The emphasis on a sustainability can be traced back to early attempts to understand the ecological nature of North American rangelands in the late 19th century, and the resource conservation movement of the same time. [3] [4] This type of analysis coalesced in the 20th century with recognition that preservationist conservation strategies had not been effective in halting the decline of natural resources. A more integrated approach was implemented recognising the intertwined social, cultural, economic and political aspects of resource management. [5] A more holistic, national and even global form evolved, from the Brundtland Commission and the advocacy of sustainable development.

In 2005 the government of New South Wales, Australia established a Standard for Quality Natural Resource Management, [6] to improve the consistency of practice, based on an adaptive management approach.

In the United States, the most active areas of natural resource management are fisheries management, [7] wildlife management, [8] often associated with ecotourism and rangeland management, and forest management. [9] In Australia, water sharing, such as the Murray Darling Basin Plan and catchment management are also significant.

Ownership regimes

Natural resource management approaches can be categorised according to the kind and right of stakeholders, natural resources:

Stakeholder analysis

Stakeholder analysis originated from business management practices and has been incorporated into natural resource management in ever growing popularity. Stakeholder analysis in the context of natural resource management identifies distinctive interest groups affected in the utilisation and conservation of natural resources. [11]

There is no definitive definition of a stakeholder as illustrated in the table below. Especially in natural resource management as it is difficult to determine who has a stake and this will differ according to each potential stakeholder. [12]

Different approaches to who is a stakeholder: [12]

SourceWho is a stakeholderKind of research
Freeman. [13] "can affect or is affected by the achievement of the organization's objectives"Business Management
Bowie [14] "without whose support the organization would cease to exist"Business Management
Clarkson [15] "... persons or groups that have, or claim, ownership, rights, or interests in a corporation and its activities, past, present, or future."Business Management
Grimble and Wellard [16] "...any group of people, organized or unorganized, who share a common interest or stake in a particular issue or system..."Natural resource management
Gass et al. [17] "... any individual, group and institution who would potentially be affected, whether positively or negatively, by a specified event, process or change."Natural resource management
Buanes et al [18] "... any group or individual who may directly or indirectly affect—or be affected—...planning to be at least potential stakeholders."Natural resource management
Brugha and Varvasovszky [19] "... stakeholders (individuals, groups and organizations) who have an interest (stake) and the potential to influence the actions and aims of an organization, project or policy direction."Health policy
ODA [20] "... persons, groups or institutions with interests in a project or programme."Development

Therefore, it is dependent upon the circumstances of the stakeholders involved with natural resource as to which definition and subsequent theory is utilised.

Billgrena and Holme [12] identified the aims of stakeholder analysis in natural resource management:

This gives transparency and clarity to policy making allowing stakeholders to recognise conflicts of interest and facilitate resolutions. [12] [21] There are numerous stakeholder theories such as Mitchell et al. [22] however Grimble [21] created a framework of stages for a Stakeholder Analysis in natural resource management. Grimble [21] designed this framework to ensure that the analysis is specific to the essential aspects of natural resource management.

Stages in Stakeholder analysis: [21]

  1. Clarify objectives of the analysis
  2. Place issues in a systems context
  3. Identify decision-makers and stakeholders
  4. Investigate stakeholder interests and agendas
  5. Investigate patterns of inter-action and dependence (e.g. conflicts and compatibilities, trade-offs and synergies)


Grimble and Wellard [16] established that Stakeholder analysis in natural resource management is most relevant where issued can be characterised as;

Case studies:

In the case of the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, a comprehensive stakeholder analysis would have been relevant and the Batwa people would have potentially been acknowledged as stakeholders preventing the loss of people's livelihoods and loss of life. [16] [21]

Short video on Natural Resource Management in Wales by the Welsh Government

In Wales, Natural Resources Wales, a Welsh Government sponsored body "pursues sustainable management of natural resources" and "applies the principles of sustainable management of natural resources" as stated in the Environment (Wales) Act 2016. [23] NRW is responsible for more than 40 different types of regulatory regime across a wide range of activities.

Nepal, Indonesia and Koreas' community forestry are successful examples of how stakeholder analysis can be incorporated into the management of natural resources. This allowed the stakeholders to identify their needs and level of involvement with the forests.


Alternatives/ Complementary forms of analysis:

Management of the resources

Natural resource management issues are inherently complex and contentious. First, they involve the ecological cycles, hydrological cycles, climate, animals, plants and geography, etc. All these are dynamic and inter-related. A change in one of them may have far reaching and/or long term impacts which may even be irreversible. Second, in addition to the complexity of the natural systems, managers also have to consider various stakeholders and their interests, policies, politics, geographical boundaries and economic implications. It is impossible to fully satisfy all aspects at the same time. Therefore, between the scientific complexity and the diverse stakeholders, natural resource management is typically contentious.

After the United Nations Conference for the Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, most nations subscribed to new principles for the integrated management of land, water, and forests. Although program names vary from nation to nation, all express similar aims.

The various approaches applied to natural resource management include:

Community-based natural resource management

The community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) approach combines conservation objectives with the generation of economic benefits for rural communities. The three key assumptions being that: locals are better placed to conserve natural resources, people will conserve a resource only if benefits exceed the costs of conservation, and people will conserve a resource that is linked directly to their quality of life. [5] When a local people's quality of life is enhanced, their efforts and commitment to ensure the future well-being of the resource are also enhanced. [27] Regional and community based natural resource management is also based on the principle of subsidiarity. The United Nations advocates CBNRM in the Convention on Biodiversity and the Convention to Combat Desertification. Unless clearly defined, decentralised NRM can result in an ambiguous socio-legal environment with local communities racing to exploit natural resources while they can, such as the forest communities in central Kalimantan (Indonesia). [28]

A problem of CBNRM is the difficulty of reconciling and harmonising the objectives of socioeconomic development, biodiversity protection and sustainable resource utilisation. [29] The concept and conflicting interests of CBNRM, [30] [31] show how the motives behind the participation are differentiated as either people-centred (active or participatory results that are truly empowering) [32] or planner-centred (nominal and results in passive recipients). Understanding power relations is crucial to the success of community based NRM. Locals may be reluctant to challenge government recommendations for fear of losing promised benefits.

CBNRM is based particularly on advocacy by nongovernmental organizations working with local groups and communities, on the one hand, and national and transnational organizations, on the other, to build and extend new versions of environmental and social advocacy that link social justice and environmental management agendas [33] with both direct and indirect benefits observed including a share of revenues, employment, diversification of livelihoods and increased pride and identity. Ecological and societal successes and failures of CBNRM projects have been documented. [34] [35] CBNRM has raised new challenges, as concepts of community, territory, conservation, and indigenous are worked into politically varied plans and programs in disparate sites. Warner and Jones [36] address strategies for effectively managing conflict in CBNRM.

The capacity of Indigenous communities to conserve natural resources has been acknowledged by the Australian Government with the Caring for Country [37] Program. Caring for our Country is an Australian Government initiative jointly administered by the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. These Departments share responsibility for delivery of the Australian Government's environment and sustainable agriculture programs, which have traditionally been broadly referred to under the banner of 'natural resource management'. These programs have been delivered regionally, through 56 State government bodies, successfully allowing regional communities to decide the natural resource priorities for their regions. [38]

More broadly, a research study based in Tanzania and the Pacific researched what motivates communities to adopt CBNRM's and found that aspects of the specific CBNRM program, of the community that has adopted the program, and of the broader social-ecological context together shape the why CBNRM's are adopted. [39] However, overall, program adoption seemed to mirror the relative advantage of CBNRM programs to local villagers and villager access to external technical assistance. [39] There have been socioeconomic critiques of CBNRM in Africa, [40] but ecological effectiveness of CBNRM measured by wildlife population densities has been shown repeatedly in Tanzania. [41] [42]

Governance is seen as a key consideration for delivering community-based or regional natural resource management. In the State of NSW, the 13 catchment management authorities (CMAs) are overseen by the Natural Resources Commission (NRC), responsible for undertaking audits of the effectiveness of regional natural resource management programs. [43]

Gender-based natural resource management

Social capital and gender are factors that impact community-based natural resource management (CBNRM), including conservation strategies and collaborations between community members and staff. Through three months of participant observation in a fishing camp in San Evaristo, Mexico, Ben Siegelman learned that the fishermen build trust through jokes and fabrications. He emphasizes social capital as a process because it is built and accumulated through practice of intricate social norms. Siegelman notes that playful joking is connected to masculinity and often excludes women. He stresses that both gender and social capital are performed. Furthermore, in San Evaristo, the gendered network of fishermen is simultaneously a social network. Nearly all fishermen in San Evaristo are men and most families have lived there for generations. Men form intimate relationships by spending 14 hour work days together, while women spend time with the family managing domestic caretaking. Siegelman observes three categories of lies amongst the fishermen: exaggerations, deceptions, and jokes. For example a fisherman may exaggerate his success fishing at a particular spot to mislead friends, place his hand on the scale to turn a larger profit, or make a sexual joke to earn respect. As Siegelman puts it, "lies build trust." Siegelman saw that this division of labor was reproduced, at least in part, to do with the fact that the culture of lying and trust was a masculine activity unique to the fisherman. Similar to the ways in which the culture of lying excluded women from the social sphere of fishing, conservationists were also excluded from this social arrangement and, thus, were not able to obtain the trust needed to do their work of regulating fishing practices. As outsiders, conservationists, even male conservationists, were not able to fit the ideal of masculinity that was considered "trustable" by the fishermen and could convince them to implement or participate in conservation practices. In one instance, the researcher replied jokingly "in the sea" when a fisherman asked where the others were fishing that day. This vague response earned him trust. Women are excluded from this form of social capital because many of the jokes center around "masculine exploits". Siegelman finishes by asking: how can female conservationists act when they are excluded through social capital? What role should men play in this situation? [44]

Adaptive Management

The primary methodological approach adopted by catchment management authorities (CMAs) for regional natural resource management in Australia is adaptive management. [6]

This approach includes recognition that adaption occurs through a process of 'plan-do-review-act'. It also recognises seven key components that should be considered for quality natural resource management practice:

Integrated natural resource management

Integrated natural resource management (INRM) is the process of managing natural resources in a systematic way, which includes multiple aspects of natural resource use (biophysical, socio-political, and economic) meet production goals of producers and other direct users (e.g., food security, profitability, risk aversion) as well as goals of the wider community (e.g., poverty alleviation, welfare of future generations, environmental conservation). It focuses on sustainability and at the same time tries to incorporate all possible stakeholders from the planning level itself, reducing possible future conflicts. The conceptual basis of INRM has evolved in recent years through the convergence of research in diverse areas such as sustainable land use, participatory planning, integrated watershed management, and adaptive management. [45] [46] INRM is being used extensively and been successful in regional and community based natural management. [47]

Frameworks and modelling

There are various frameworks and computer models developed to assist natural resource management.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

GIS is a powerful analytical tool as it is capable of overlaying datasets to identify links. A bush regeneration scheme can be informed by the overlay of rainfall, cleared land and erosion. [48] In Australia, Metadata Directories such as NDAR provide data on Australian natural resources such as vegetation, fisheries, soils and water. [49] These are limited by the potential for subjective input and data manipulation.

Natural Resources Management Audit Frameworks

The NSW Government in Australia has published an audit framework [50] for natural resource management, to assist the establishment of a performance audit role in the governance of regional natural resource management. This audit framework builds from other established audit methodologies, including performance audit, environmental audit and internal audit. Audits undertaken using this framework have provided confidence to stakeholders, identified areas for improvement and described policy expectations for the general public. [51] [52]

The Australian Government has established a framework for auditing greenhouse emissions and energy reporting, which closely follows Australian Standards for Assurance Engagements.

The Australian Government is also currently preparing an audit framework for auditing water management, focussing on the implementation of the Murray Darling Basin Plan.

Other elements

Biodiversity Conservation

The issue of biodiversity conservation is regarded as an important element in natural resource management. What is biodiversity? Biodiversity is a comprehensive concept, which is a description of the extent of natural diversity. Gaston and Spicer [53] (p. 3) point out that biodiversity is "the variety of life" and relate to different kinds of "biodiversity organization". According to Gray [54] (p. 154), the first widespread use of the definition of biodiversity, was put forward by the United Nations in 1992, involving different aspects of biological diversity.

Precautionary Biodiversity Management

The "threats" wreaking havoc on biodiversity include; habitat fragmentation, putting a strain on the already stretched biological resources; forest deterioration and deforestation; the invasion of "alien species" and "climate change" [55] ( p. 2). Since these threats have received increasing attention from environmentalists and the public, the precautionary management of biodiversity becomes an important part of natural resources management. According to Cooney, there are material measures to carry out precautionary management of biodiversity in natural resource management.

Concrete "policy tools"

Cooney claims that the policy making is dependent on "evidences", relating to "high standard of proof", the forbidding of special "activities" and "information and monitoring requirements". Before making the policy of precaution, categorical evidence is needed. When the potential menace of "activities" is regarded as a critical and "irreversible" endangerment, these "activities" should be forbidden. For example, since explosives and toxicants will have serious consequences to endanger human and natural environment, the South Africa Marine Living Resources Act promulgated a series of policies on completely forbidding to "catch fish" by using explosives and toxicants.

Administration and guidelines

According to Cooney, there are four methods to manage the precaution of biodiversity in natural resources management;

  1. "Ecosystem-based management" including "more risk-averse and precautionary management", where "given prevailing uncertainty regarding ecosystem structure, function, and inter-specific interactions, precaution demands an ecosystem rather than single-species approach to management". [56]
  2. "Adaptive management" is "a management approach that expressly tackles the uncertainty and dynamism of complex systems".
  3. "Environmental impact assessment" and exposure ratings decrease the "uncertainties" of precaution, even though it has deficiencies, and
  4. "Protectionist approaches", which "most frequently links to" biodiversity conservation in natural resources management.
Land management

In order to have a sustainable environment, understanding and using appropriate management strategies is important. In terms of understanding, Young [57] emphasises some important points of land management:

Dale et al. (2000) [58] study has shown that there are five fundamental and helpful ecological principles for the land manager and people who need them. The ecological principles relate to time, place, species, disturbance and the landscape and they interact in many ways. It is suggested that land managers could follow these guidelines:

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Natural resource</span> Resources that exist without actions of humankind

Natural resources are resources that are drawn from nature and used with few modifications. This includes the sources of valued characteristics such as commercial and industrial use, aesthetic value, scientific interest and cultural value. On Earth, it includes sunlight, atmosphere, water, land, all minerals along with all vegetation, and wildlife.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Natural capital</span> Worlds stock of natural resources

Natural capital is the world's stock of natural resources, which includes geology, soils, air, water and all living organisms. Some natural capital assets provide people with free goods and services, often called ecosystem services. All of these underpin our economy and society, and thus make human life possible.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Environmental protection</span> Practice of protecting the natural environment

Environmental protection is the practice of protecting the natural environment by individuals, organizations and governments. Its objectives are to conserve natural resources and the existing natural environment and, where possible, to repair damage and reverse trends.

Adaptive management, also known as adaptive resource management or adaptive environmental assessment and management, is a structured, iterative process of robust decision making in the face of uncertainty, with an aim to reducing uncertainty over time via system monitoring. In this way, decision making simultaneously meets one or more resource management objectives and, either passively or actively, accrues information needed to improve future management. Adaptive management is a tool which should be used not only to change a system, but also to learn about the system. Because adaptive management is based on a learning process, it improves long-run management outcomes. The challenge in using the adaptive management approach lies in finding the correct balance between gaining knowledge to improve management in the future and achieving the best short-term outcome based on current knowledge. This approach has more recently been employed in implementing international development programs.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Environmental resource management</span> Type of resource management

Environmental resource management is the management of the interaction and impact of human societies on the environment. It is not, as the phrase might suggest, the management of the environment itself. Environmental resources management aims to ensure that ecosystem services are protected and maintained for future human generations, and also maintain ecosystem integrity through considering ethical, economic, and scientific (ecological) variables. Environmental resource management tries to identify factors affected by conflicts that rise between meeting needs and protecting resources. It is thus linked to environmental protection, sustainability, integrated landscape management, natural resource management, fisheries management, forest management, and wildlife management, and others.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Environmental planning</span>

Environmental planning is the process of facilitating decision making to carry out land development with the consideration given to the natural environment, social, political, economic and governance factors and provides a holistic framework to achieve sustainable outcomes. A major goal of environmental planning is to create sustainable communities, which aim to conserve and protect undeveloped land.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999</span> Environmental law in Australia

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ecological resilience</span> Capacity of ecosystems to resist and recover from change

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sustainability accounting</span>

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Index of environmental articles</span>

The natural environment, commonly referred to simply as the environment, includes all living and non-living things occurring naturally on Earth.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ecosystem management</span> Natural resource management

Ecosystem management is an approach to natural resource management that aims to ensure the long-term sustainability and persistence of an ecosystems function and services while meeting socioeconomic, political, and cultural needs. Although indigenous communities have employed sustainable ecosystem management approaches for millennia, ecosystem management emerged formally as a concept in the 1990s from a growing appreciation of the complexity of ecosystems, as well as humans' reliance and influence on natural systems.

Environmental governance (EG) consist of a system of laws, norms, rules, policies and practices that dictate how the board members of an environment related regulatory body should manage and oversee the affairs of any environment related regulatory body which is responsible for ensuring sustainability and manage all human activities—political, social and economic. Environmental governance includes government, business and civil society, and emphasizes whole system management. To capture this diverse range of elements, environmental governance often employs alternative systems of governance, for example watershed-based management.

Community-based management (CBM) is a bottom up approach of organization which can be facilitated by an upper government or NGO structure but it aims for local stakeholder participation in the planning, research, development, management and policy making for a community as a whole. The decentralization of managing tactics enables local people to deal with the unique social, political and ecological problems their community might face and find solutions ideal to their situation. Overwhelming national or local economic, political and social pressures can affect the efficiency of CBM as well as its long term application. CBM varies across spatial and temporal scales to reflect the ever-changing distinctive physical and/or human environment it is acting within. While the specifics of each practice might differ, existing research maintains that community based management, when implemented properly, is incredibly beneficial not only for the health of the environment, but also for the well-being of the stakeholders.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">David Lindenmayer</span> Australian scientist

David Lindenmayer,, is an Australian scientist and academic. His research focuses on the adoption of nature conservation practices in agricultural production areas, developing ways to improve integration of native forest harvesting and biodiversity conservation, new approaches to enhance biodiversity conservation in plantations, and improved fire management practices in Australia. He specialises in large-scale, long-term research monitoring programs in south-eastern Australia, primarily in forests, reserves, national parks, plantations, and on farm land.

Natural capital accounting is the process of calculating the total stocks and flows of natural resources and services in a given ecosystem or region. Accounting for such goods may occur in physical or monetary terms. This process can subsequently inform government, corporate and consumer decision making as each relates to the use or consumption of natural resources and land, and sustainable behaviour.

Social accounting is the process of communicating the social and environmental effects of organizations' economic actions to particular interest groups within society and to society at large. Social Accounting is different from public interest accounting as well as from critical accounting.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nature-based solutions</span> Sustainable management and use of nature for tackling socio-environmental challenges

The term Nature-based solutions (NBS) refers to the sustainable management and use of natural features and processes to tackle socio-environmental challenges. These challenges include issues such as climate change, water security, water pollution, food security, human health, biodiversity loss, and disaster risk management.

The Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCC) are a network of 22 regional conservation bodies covering the entire United States and adjacent areas, established in 2009. They are autonomous cooperatives sponsored by the U.S. Department of the Interior, and aim to develop coordinated conservation strategies applicable to large areas of landscape. Partnerships are formed with government and non-government conservation organizations. Similar initiatives have been started or advocated in other parts of the world.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Environmental conflict</span>

Environmental conflicts or ecological distribution conflicts (EDCs) are social conflicts caused by environmental degradation or by unequal distribution of environmental resources. Parties involved in the conflict may include locally affected communities, states, companies and investors, and social or environmental movements; typically environmental defenders are protecting their homelands from resource extraction or hazardous waste disposal. Environmental degradation resulting in conflict creates resource scarcities, strains the environment's ability to respond to pollution, and degrades the living space for humans and nature. Frequently these conflicts focus on environmental justice issues, the rights of indigenous people, the rights of peasants, or threats to communities whose livelihoods are dependent on the ocean.


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