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Beyond Formal Groups: Neighboring Acts and Watershed Protection in Appalachia

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Type: Journal Article
Author: Lukacs, Heather; Ardoin, Nicole M.; Grubert, Emily
Journal: International Journal of the Commons
Volume: 10
Page(s): 878-901
Date: 2016
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/10178
Sector: Water Resource & Irrigation
Region: North America
Subject(s): watersheds
Abstract: "This paper explores how watershed organizations in Appalachia have persisted in addressing water quality issues in areas with a history of coal mining. We identified two watershed groups that have taken responsibility for restoring local creeks that were previously highly degraded and sporadically managed. These watershed groups represent cases of self-organized commons governance in resource-rich, economically poor Appalachian communities. We describe the extent and characteristics of links between watershed group volunteers and watershed residents who are not group members. Through surveys, participant observation, and key-informant consultation, we found that neighbors – group members as well as non-group-members – supported the group's function through informal neighboring acts. Past research has shown that local commons governance institutions benefit from being nested in supportive external structures. We found that the persistence and success of community watershed organizations depends on the informal participation of local residents, affirming the necessity of looking beyond formal, organized groups to understand the resources, expertise, and information needed to address complex water pollution at the watershed level. Our findings augment the concept of nestedness in commons governance to include that of a formal organization acting as a neighbor that exchanges informal neighboring acts with local residents. In this way, we extend the concept of neighboring to include interactions between individuals and a group operating in the same geographic area."

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