Natural Resources, School of


First Advisor

Cody Knutson

Date of this Version



Mosier, M. (2019). The Niobrara National Scenic River: Exploring Co-Management Through a Case Study of the Niobrara Council. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In partial fulfillment of requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Natural Resource Sciences, Under the supervision of Professor Cody Knutson. Lincoln, Nebraska: May 2019.

Copyright (c) 2019 Melissa M. Mosier


In recent decades, government staff and local citizens have increasingly employed cooperative schemes of natural resource management, in lieu of more conventional, top-down approaches of addressing user conflicts as they relate to water resources. The focus of this project was on the Niobrara Council, a partnership of local, state, and federal representatives charged with cooperatively managing the reach of the Niobrara River that was federally designated under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in 1991. The project's purpose was to explore the cooperative framework of the Council, using the methodology outlined by Carlsson and Berkes (2005). This methodology involved investigating the functional tasks of the Council and analyzing the linkages between those tasks and the individuals who perform them in order to develop a descriptive picture of how the Council functions. Qualitative data for this project was gathered through interviews with the Council members, meeting minutes, and enabling documents and laws related to the Niobrara National Scenic River (NNSR) and the Council. This data was used to inform a qualitative thematic analysis of the Council and clarify how relationships between participants and management activities in a co-management framework are organized, and how they might be enhanced.

The findings from this project provided a clearer picture of how the various partners involved in the co-management framework of the Council manage the NNSR. A better understanding of the roles of various partners and the specific management tasks that they were responsible for was uncovered; illustrating where various actors play key roles, how responsibility for some tasks is shared, where collaboration is most prevalent and where it is intermittent, and at which junctures entities outside of the Council play a significant part. Additionally, data was analyzed in order to define what aspects of the co-management framework could be enhanced for capacity building, the most prevalent needs being increased access to resources, enhancing institutional arrangements, supporting appropriate government policies and planning, and enhancing stakeholder participation.

Advisor: Cody Knutson