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Forest Policy Information Networks and the Role of Trust: Cooperative and Competitive Orientations and Underlying Causes

Chair of Environmental and Forest Policy, University of Freiburg, Tennenbacher Str. 4, D-79106 Freiburg, Germany
Forests 2019, 10(4), 359; https://doi.org/10.3390/f10040359
Received: 27 March 2019 / Revised: 17 April 2019 / Accepted: 25 April 2019 / Published: 25 April 2019
(This article belongs to the Section Forest Economics and Human Dimensions)
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Abstract

The importance of trust has been widely acknowledged as a major antecedent and a constitutive element of information exchange in policy networks. The ultimate objective of the present article is to understand whether and how trust is a factor explaining patterns of limited information exchange between forestry and nature conservation actors in forest policy networks in Europe. Drawing upon analytical insights of actor-centered institutionalism (ACI) and building upon a qualitative network analysis (QNA) as a research strategy, the study focuses on the German forest policy network in order to provide deeper insights into the cooperative (i.e., generalized trust) and competitive (i.e., generalized distrust) orientations of forestry and nature conservation actors. The results reveal trust issues with respect to forest information, which can be framed according to the interests of forestry and nature conservation actors and used as a discursive weapon, softly steering them in a particular direction. The underlying causes of the trust issues are deeply rooted in conflicts of interests and power, preventing from exchanging forest information among forestry and nature conservation actors. It is therefore argued that forest information should be understood as a political asset rather than a neutral and objective form of expertise. This could explain persistent trust issues and conflicts among forestry and nature conservation actors when it comes to the exchange of forest information in the context of European forest policy networks. View Full-Text
Keywords: trust; forest policy; network; information exchange; actor-centered institutionalism; Germany trust; forest policy; network; information exchange; actor-centered institutionalism; Germany
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Baycheva-Merger, T. Forest Policy Information Networks and the Role of Trust: Cooperative and Competitive Orientations and Underlying Causes. Forests 2019, 10, 359.

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