Biodiversity over the edge: Civil society and the protection of transborder regions in North America
This dissertation examines the role of civil society in transborder conservation, focusing on two particular conservation initiatives: the International Sonoran Desert Alliance (ISDA) and the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y). In both initiatives, individual citizens and conservation organizations have taken on a task traditionally delegated to states—the task of working cooperatively across international borders.
Chapter 1 sets the wider stage of conservation work in general, providing an overview of transborder biodiversity conservation. Chapter 2 introduces the qualitative methodologies utilized in this dissertation, which revolve around interview data. Chapter 2 also introduces the principal research question: Can nongovernmental actors, working cooperatively across borders in the Sonoran Desert and the Northern Rockies, enhance the effectiveness of transborder biodiversity conservation? This question is directly addressed within each of the two case studies on ISDA and Y2Y (Chapters 3 and 4 respectively). These case studies focus on each initiative's establishment, their overall intentions and functions, and how they have or have not translated intentions into action.
Chapter 2 also introduces the dissertation's hypothesis, which states that: In both the Sonoran Desert and Northern Rockies, certain nongovernmental actors have organized themselves as conservation-oriented “ transnational nongovernmental regimes” (TNRs). This hypothesis is examined in Chapter 5, which focuses on the applicability of international regime theory (IRT) towards initiatives such as ISDA and Y2Y.
Chapter 6 then compares the effectiveness of Y2Y and ISDA, arguing that ultimately the former has had a more lasting impact in the Northern Rockies than the latter had in the Sonoran Desert. The chapter then presents a number of independent variables that could account for the difference in their effectiveness. Chief among these was the independent variable of the presence or absence of an engaging vision, although a number of other independent variables were also highly plausible. Chapter 6 then discusses a growing body of literature on the effectiveness of intergovernmental environmental regimes, and whether the results from that literature are applicable to initiatives such as ISDA and Y2Y. The dissertation ends with a discussion of the relative roles of governments and civil society in international biodiversity protection.