Policy-Oriented Learning Among National Forest Stakeholders in the Pacific Northwest: Changes in Policy Beliefs Since Adoption of the Northwest Forest Plan
Lange, Sarah Elizabeth
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This study evaluates whether national forests stakeholders in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States have changed their national forest policy beliefs since adoption of the 1994 Northwest Forest Plan, and describes the extent to which scientific and technical information influences the revision of policy beliefs. The study tested assumptions of the Advocacy Coalition Framework (ACF) regarding the propensity for belief change, or policy-oriented learning, to occur in policy subsystems where conflict is intermediate and scientific information is widely available. Semi-structured interviews with 20 individuals with long-term histories of involvement in regional national forest policy issues were conducted and analyzed. Interviewees were sorted into three advocacy coalitions: an amenity coalition most concerned with forest preservation, a commodity coalition most concerned with timber production, and a scientific management coalition most concerned with maximizing agency discretion and applying scientific expertise in management decisions. The majority of interviewees (80%) revised policy beliefs, however policy belief change results varied by advocacy coalition. Out of those who changed policy beliefs, 68.8% of individuals indicated revision of more than one policy belief. 71% of those who revised policy core beliefs also revised secondary beliefs while only 36% of participants who revised secondary beliefs also revised policy core beliefs. Furthermore, the study reveals instances of policy belief affirmation and examples of the absence of learning. Scientific information is not found to be a major influence upon policy-oriented learning. Instead, most interviewees attributed belief change to conflict resolution, experience with policy implementation, and the perception of environmental or social conditions.
- Forestry