Theory in practice: Applying participatory democracy theory to public land planning

Margaret A. Moote, Mitchel P. McClaran, Donna K. Chickering

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

150 Scopus citations


Application of participatory democracy theory to public participation in public land planning, while widely advocated, has not been closely examined. A case study is used here to explicate the application of participatory democracy concepts to public participation in public land planning and decision making. In this case, a Bureau of Land Management resource area manager decided to make a significant shift from the traditional public involvement process to a more participatory method-coordinated resource management (CRM). This case was assessed using document analysis, direct observation of CRM meetings, questionnaires, and interviews of key participants. These sources were used to examine the CRM case using participatory democracy concepts of efficacy, access and representation, continuous participation throughout planning, information exchange and learning, and decision-making authority. The case study suggests that social deliberation in itself does not ensure successful collaboration and that establishing rules of operation and decision making within the group is critical. Furthermore, conflicts between the concept of shared decision- making authority and the public land management agencies' accountability to Congress, the President, and the courts need further consideration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)877-889
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironmental Management
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1997


  • Administrative discretion
  • Case study
  • Collaboration
  • Consensus
  • Coordinated resource management
  • Public participation
  • Representation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Pollution


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