Understanding Perceptions of Climate Change Scenario Planning in United States Public Land Management Agencies

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As climate change increasingly challenges the capacity of traditional decision-making modalities to contend with mounting complexities and uncertainties, natural resource management agencies have increasingly turned to nontraditional modes of planning and decision-making such as ‘futuring. Futuring methods, such as scenarios, have been increasingly utilized around the world. In the US, however, there has been a limited uptake of these tools across public land management and a preference for more traditional forecasting tools. This article explores some possibilities about why this is the case and aims to identify potential pathways forward. Drawing on 28 exploratory interviews with public land managers from the US Forest Service and others, a variety of benefits to scenario use were identified including: (1) mitigation of climate skepticism; (2) more robust capture of uncertainty, complexity, and the potential for surprise posed by climate change; and (3) potential for social learning. Barriers identified included: (1) difficulty in understanding the process, (2) bureaucratic concerns about time, staffing, and funding, and (3) a lack of an agency ‘champion’. However, concerns about the epistemological and institutional fit of nontraditional planning and decision-making tools like scenario processes predominated across the interviews. Interviewees also identified what we call ‘streamlining’ and ‘mainstreaming’ as potential pathways to integrate scenario processes into planning and decision-making.




Murphy, D. J., Yung, L., Schultz, C., Miller, B. A., Wyborn, C., & Williams, D. R. (2023). Understanding Perceptions of Climate Change Scenario Planning in United States Public Land Management Agencies. Society and Natural Resources. https://doi.org/10.1080/08941920.2023.2172240

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