Institutional interplay and effectiveness: assessing efforts to conserve western hemisphere shorebirds

  • Jeremy Wilson
Original Paper


Bird conservation agencies and organizations can take credit for a long list of transnational policy accomplishments. This article examines one set, a constellation of arrangements developed over the past three decades by those seeking to conserve western hemisphere shorebirds. At the center of this constellation are the US and Canadian national shorebird conservation plans and a cross-border initiative, the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Conservation Reserve Network. We treat these and associated plans, programs, and initiatives as a nested set of institutions, noting that these are operated by a wide assortment of state and societal actors. Exploring the potential of a framework based on Oran Young’s concept of interplay, we analyze the construction of these institutions and efforts to establish effectiveness. Examining activity in three zones of issue proximity, we conclude that shorebird conservationists have responded well to formative interplay challenges. They have made least progress in engaging remote institutions responsible for threats to shorebird habitat. We note, though, that it is important to distinguish between scientific and political levels of interplay work. On a substantive level we conclude that the shorebird community is well-positioned to move beyond generative and programmatic tasks to focus on establishing policy capability. On a theoretical level, we conclude that a framework based on interplay provides a strong foundation for analysis of the forces shaping the effectiveness of informal conservation institutions such as the ones examined.


Bird conservation Biodiversity conservation Western hemisphere shorebird conservation network Effectiveness of environmental institutions Oran Young Fit and interplay Transnational environmental institutions Environmental policy 



I would like to thank Georgie Wilson and the journal’s referees for their helpful comments on earlier drafts. I would like to acknowledge the financial support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political scienceUniversity of VictoriaVictoriaCanada

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