Unlike many other countries in the world, America is blessed with abundant fish and wildlife. Americans care a great deal about the protection and management of these resources but factions can be deeply divided about how best to accomplish that. The job of the modern wildlife manager is to make decisions that balance these conflicting public views while ensuring the health of the resource.
Views have changed
To improve the understanding of their constituencies all of the state fish and wildlife agencies in the U.S. have joined forces to commission a nationwide study led by Colorado State University scientists. The new study is a replication of a 2005 study conducted for 19 state fish and wildlife agencies in the Western United States.
“The 2005 study was conducted, in part, to explore wildlife managers’ beliefs that the interests of the publics they served had been changing. Our study supported that conclusion,” said Manfredo. “The shift has been from a more utilitarian view of wildlife to one we call mutualism. People with strong mutualist values see wildlife as companions, deserving of rights and of caring.”
The 2005 conclusions will be further examined in the 50 state-study that will launch this year. Information from the study is intended to help managers improve their communication with the pubic, expand the recreational opportunities and services they provide, and guide mediation of conflict situations.
“It’s really become important to engage the public effectively and understand the types of issues that are important to them. We have a diverse state in terms of not only the fish and wildlife in the state, but the people in the state,” said Ed Boggess, Director, Fish and Wildlife Division, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources & President, Midwest Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.
The study is unique because it will consider the differences across the various regions of the country.
Broader, social factors
“Our earlier study showed that there were differences in the predominant values across the Western states and that those differences were related to broader social factors such as urbanization,” said Teel. “Colorado, for example, appeared to be a state in the midst of a transition,” said Teel. “Overall, we found that states with a division of values also had disagreement on responses to key management issues.”
CSU researchers will collaborate with researchers from The Ohio State University, University of Minnesota, and Responsive Management Inc. in conducting the study. Funding is being provided through the Multistate Conservation Grant Program of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.