University grounds practitioners’ perceptions of natural areas management: A qualitative exploration

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Title: University grounds practitioners’ perceptions of natural areas management: A qualitative exploration
Author: Wisenbaker, Neal
Abstract: Abstract As the call for nature conservation comes to urban areas, it is important to understand how organizations managing natural areas operate within real-world contexts so that conservation in urban areas is implemented effectively and efficiently. I investigated a grounds management organization to explore the practices and perceptions of natural areas management. A qualitative approach, including Grounded Theory and photovoice, allowed me to develop a rich understanding of the practice from the perspectives of practitioners. The goals of the project were (1) to document natural areas management practices, (2) improve natural areas management operations, and (3) develop questions for future research. The research questions were: (1) What practices are currently conducted, who is involved, and what do they do? (2) Are there points of agreement and differences in practitioners’ practices, perceptions, and experiences? (3) How do practitioners perceive current practices and the barriers to, and opportunities for implementation? Practitioners within the institution represented distinct organizations – design, construction, maintenance – and their customers. Participants described natural areas management practices as a series of independent initiatives, including stream restoration, stormwater best management practices, trash pick up, turf reduction, and design-build college courses. There was considerable disagreement among practitioners about the financial and labor requirements needed to manage natural areas effectively. However, participants agreed that the sustainable development of the campus, the utilization of the environment as an educational tool, expanded partnerships, and staff development were significant opportunities for the management of natural areas. I identified inadequate provision of financial resources and insufficient staffing as significant barriers to the effective implementation of natural areas management programs. Despite inadequate investment the value that the institution gives to natural areas management is significant. There is an opportunity to use the points of agreement outlined above to leverage additional investment in natural areas management programs. I note areas for improvement, based on the findings. First, standards should be set for consistent implementation. Second, practitioners require ongoing and formal coordination for effective implementation. Third, a clear understanding of the goals and ongoing evaluation of the resources required to attain them is needed among all practitioners and stakeholders. Finally, natural areas management programs would benefit from leveraging resources needed to support the program from the significant opportunities associated with their practice, including the sustainable development of the campus, the utilization of the environment as an educational tool, expanded partnerships, and staff development Improving management operations requires a shift in perspective from one-off project conception that moves linearly through divisions to ongoing management involving all divisions. This will include coordination among all stakeholders throughout the lifetime of a program and consistent evaluation of program operations against clearly articulated programs goals.
Publisher: North Carolina State University. College of Natural Resources
Date: 2014-05
Series/Report No.: Master of Natural Resources Professional Papers (North Carolina State University. College of Natural Resources)
URI: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/resolver/1840.4/8286


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