Community-Based Organizations and Rural Economic Development

Person standing in front of forest road

Community-based Organization Profiles

Watershed Research and Training Center

Wallowa Resources

Mt Adams Resource Stewards

Framing Our Community, Elk City, ID (Factsheet)


Rural communities across the western US have experienced substantial changes to their economies since the early 1990s. The driving forces of these changes include public land management policy shifts, restructuring of the timber industry, and broader demographic and macroeconomic dynamics. In many rural communities, community-based organizations (CBOs), grassroots nonprofit entities that focus on revitalizing their respective communities through linked natural resource stewardship and rural economic development activities, have emerged to provide direction and practical solutions to natural resource management dilemmas and social conflict. Despite being locally rooted, CBOs typically "bridge" the community scale with resources, policies, and individuals at regional, state, and even national scales. The purpose of EWP's research on community-based organizations is to understand how they accomplish both local economic development and broader institutional change and the challenges they face in their efforts to reinvent the social and economic relationships between communities and nearby lands and waters. This project was supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Grant no. 2011-67023-30111 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.


Between 2012-2016, we conducted four in-depth case studies of CBOs in California, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington; one survey of CBOs across the eleven western states plus Alaska; and two surveys of businesses (timber purchasers and contractors) engaged in public lands management across the West.


Working Papers

#68: Economic Development and Public Lands: The Roles of Community-Based Organizations (2016)

#67: Community-Based Organizations in the US West: Status, Structure, and Activities (2016)

Briefing Papers

#69: A Profile of Federal Timber Purchasers in the US West (2016)

#70: A Profile of Community-Based Organizations in the US West (2016)

Prior Research

#39: Community-Based Natural Resource Management in Oregon: A Profile of Organizational Capacity (2012)

#38: The Social and Livelihood Benefits of USDA Forest Service Agreements with Community-Based Organizations (2012)

#27: Community-Based Natural Resource Management in the Western United States: A Pilot Study of Capacity (2011)