The emergence of adaptive governance in the Klamath River Basin

Brian C. Chaffin, Hannah Gosnell, Robin K. Craig

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The Klamath River Basin of south-central Oregon and northern California has been the locus of historic conflict over the governance of water situated at the spiritual, cultural, and economic confluence of fishing and farming livelihoods. In recent years, a series of crises have impacted communities and stakeholder groups across the basin and jeopardized the continued existence of endangered and threatened fish species as well as the dominant economic and social relations in the basin. From these crises, however, a set of human-driven processes emerged that closely resemble the seeds of adaptive environmental governance. This chapter describes social-ecological system structures and dynamics that led to this potential emergence of adaptive governance in the Klamath River Basin. The major aim of this chapter is to critically evaluate the role of law in the basin as a tool for both creating disturbances and opening windows of opportunity through which adaptive processes could emerge. The major insight from the Klamath case is that the distribution and application of political power cannot be underestimated as either a barrier or facilitator of adaptive governance. Without an explicit recognition and analysis of power dynamics, adaptive governance scholarship lacks a critical lens to interrogate the contexts of governance transitions and evaluate the potential for new arrangements to attain explicit goals such as the sustainability of ecosystem services, the fair allocation of resources, and other principles of good governance that promote social and environmental justice.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPractical Panarchy for Adaptive Water Governance
Subtitle of host publicationLinking Law to Social-Ecological Resilience
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9783319724720
ISBN (Print)9783319724706
StatePublished - Apr 18 2018


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