Document Type



Doctor of Education


Educational Practice

Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Theresa Coble


Carl Hoagland

Keith Miller


Public lands belong to all of us. Yet, data indicate that some Americans are participating more than others in the decision-making processes that guide use, access, and availability of our public lands and resources. Three researchers investigated three ways public participation intersects with the decision-making process, with a focus on illuminating barriers to full public participation as well as potential bridges to increasing equitable inclusion. Researchers interviewed urban land managers and affinity group leaders, surveyed a sample of residents in Alaska, and examined public testimony from a city council discussion about an inclusion resolution in Homer, Alaska. Qualitative and quantitative analyses across these studies revealed that participation barriers can be grouped into intra-barriers or inter-barriers. Intra-barriers are seen within individuals, groups, or organizations. Inter-barriers emerge between groups across society. Intra-barriers include difficulties such as lack of trust, deficient group representation, low familiarity with public lands, and shortage of resources. Inter-barriers involve lack of understanding of other cultures, groups, and agencies, and inconsistent priorities, policies, and mandates that drive efforts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in public lands and access to decision making. Our research identified five categories of bridges, or solutions, to these barriers: building and maintaining strong partnerships, increasing participant representation, strengthening ally capabilities, improving staff representation and cultural competency, and improving engagement strategies. The researchers conclude that the most direct path to increasing access to public decision making is to increase equity and inclusion in tandem. Increasing both the intentionality of inclusion and the practices of equity ultimately lead to more diverse participants who are actively engaged.