The US Man and the Biosphere High Latitude Ecosystems Directorate compared two caribou management systems in Alaska and Canada. We examined the relationship between user involvement in management and management effectiveness. Measures of management effectiveness included: knowledge of the management system, agreement on acceptable harvest and herd monitoring practices, shared beliefs and perceptions on caribou population changes, perceptions of communications between management boards and caribou users, and expectations for cooperation of users with management actions. Our hypothesis was that the involvement of Canadian users in a joint management board would produce greater cooperation and agreement than the Alaskan hierarchical system. We conducted a census of government managers, and did surveys based on probability samples of approximately 200 traditional users in both countries. We found: (1) under a joint management board government managers are more sensitive and responsive to user concerns; and contrary to expectations, (2) direct user involvement in a joint management board does not increase the likelihood that users at the village level will cooperate with management actions. User-manager boards do not appear to be a substitute for a frequent and continued presence of biologists in traditional user communities when it comes to establishing trust in management information and supporting traditional community-based decision making.