County Government Approaches to Protecting, Restoring and Managing Wetlands

In the United States, counties use many formal and informal mechanisms to govern wetlands within their jurisdiction. Wetlands play a major role in the world's economic, cultural and ecological systems and are among one of the many threatened natural resources world-wide and Wisconsin is no exception. Several studies have examined wetland governance at state and local government levels, particularly in the US Northeast. In general, these studies find that local level management can be superior to a national or federal strategy alone. Governance has been defined in multiple ways. One definition of governance is the "process by which the repertoire of rules, norms, and strategies that guide behavior within a given realm of policy interactions are formed, applied, interpreted, and reformed" (McGinnis, 2011). While we have some understanding of the formal institutions used by local governments, we have yet to understand the full range of formal and informal institutions (unwritten rules or processes) used at the local level. In our survey we ask about strategies county staff use with landowners of which visiting wetland sites and coordinating with land trusts are two examples of informal institutions. Informal institutions can play a large role in regulating wetlands and can go unnoticed if only the formal institutions are examined. We aim to understand both the formal and informal institutions and the interaction between the two in creating a wetland governance system and how it differs across localities. Understanding wetland governance at the local level can help managers and policy makers develop and implement policies that efficiently and effectively manage natural resources. We are conducting a survey of county governments to understand the range 

After reviewing the survey data, we tried to understand how governments protect, restore, and manage wetlands on a county level. In order to answer this question, we looked at the demographics of the wetland managers, along with several different approaches to management such as GIS work, providing incentives to landowners, or applying heavier regulation. 

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