A number of indicators suggest that trust is becoming a major issue for natural resource managers and planners desiring to maintain or enhance community-agency relationships. Public distrust, especially local community distrust, can have severe implications for the quality and durability of natural resource policy and management decisions. This article addresses the research problem of understanding factors of community trust in a water resources management agency. To describe trust factors in this context, a descriptive, interpretive qualitative case study approach was applied. Specifically the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and key communities nearby or adjacent to water resources managed by the Corps within the Kaskaskia River Watershed in central Illinois were examined. Trust between the communities and the Corps was the focus of analysis. This research is pertinent and practical because planners, managers, engineers, policy makers, and community stakeholders in many natural resources management situations are seeking better ways of working together that produce sustainable agency-community relationships. The findings suggest that local community trust factors relevant to the Corps are complex and critical to understanding the social context of natural resources management in the Kaskaskia River Watershed. The management significance of this research is a series of suggestions for improving relationships between communities, agencies, and agency managers based on the different factors of trust. Both formal and informal mechanisms are available to address important factors of trust.
- Community relations
- Public confidence
- Public expectations
- Resource-dependent communities