April 15, 2021

Researcher: Forrest Fleischman (Department of Forest Resources, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resources Sciences)

In recent decades cities have emerged as a major locus of environmental policymaking. Policymaking is the result of people advocating for policy change, yet there are few studies examining what makes advocacy effective at changing policy. Ineffective advocacy strategies by individuals and groups such as businesses, community organizations, and nonprofits may waste community resources and lead to poor policy outcomes when important voices are left out of decision-making. The long history of environmental advocacy in the Twin Cities has occurred across a broad array of governance units, including numerous cities and special purpose governments (e.g. watershed districts, the Met Council, etc.). This diversity and long history makes the Twin Cities ideal for a project that develops and tests theories about environmental advocacy.

The research will focus on two environmental policy topics that offer contrasts in terms of levels of institutional development and synergize with broader research efforts within the university: urban forests and lawns. While both urban forests and lawns provide significant environmental services–for example by regulating climate, providing habitat for a variety of pollinators, absorbing rainfall, and buffering pollution–they have contrasting governance arrangements. Urban forests are usually governed by well-developed municipal regulations, and most cities have established urban forestry departments which aim to support the provision of environmental benefits from trees. By contrast, lawn regulations generally focus only on lawn height and neatness, variables which can conflict with environmental benefits from lawns because short lawns with uniform grass make poor habitat for pollinators, and lawn practices are enforced more through social norms than through government policies.

With these two policy areas as the lens, this project will focus on two questions:

  1. Who is involved in advocating on environmental policy issues in the Twin Cities and in what venues?
  2. How do these people describe the strategic choices they make in this advocacy?