Social networks for landscape-scale conservation in the Texas Hill Country




Linder, Whitney B.

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The Texas Hill Country region is a rapidly urbanizing area in Central Texas; many significant natural and cultural resources are found within the area, and as a result, many organizations dedicated to the conservation of the Texas Hill Country are found here. Landscape-scale conservation of the Texas Hill Country is necessary in order to protect the region’s primary source of water, critical habitats, and the economic value derived from the Hill Country landscape, including the agricultural and outdoor tourism industries. Social networks have been identified as beneficial for improving the effectiveness and efficiency of landscape-scale conservation by bringing together knowledge, resources, and momentum. However, network governance also poses challenges related to exhibited degrees of influence, differing goals or politics, and their time-intensive nature. This research examines the social network of conservation organizations operating within the Texas Hill Country, and further looks at the sub-network created by an individual organization operating specifically along the rapidly urbanizing corridor of the Texas Hill Country, in an effort to understand their unique positioning not only within the greater Hill Country, but between the two urban centers of the region. From the findings of the online survey, distributed within the network, I provide several key recommendations for the social network. Many organizations are lacking in both staff and funding capacity and should identify opportunities to leverage resources and budgets through partnerships with government entities at all scales. Further, the Texas Hill Country Conservation Network (THCCN), the region’s existing social network organization, was not identified as a key network node, likely due to greater network influence being associated to Hill Country Alliance, the THCCN’s supporting organization and fiscal sponsor; Hill Country Alliance, however, had the greatest level of network influence in the social network analysis. To expand awareness and build greater network diversity (and thus innovation), the THCCN should identify strategic opportunities to partner with organizations of different foci and increase public awareness by serving as a network facilitator. Lastly, conservation efforts in the Texas Hill Country have generated recent momentum and therefore should leverage this momentum in the causes led by the region’s environmental justice organizations. Doing so will close the political, social, and environmental gaps faced across the Texas Hill Country.


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