Collaborative Activity In Community-Based Wildlife Management
This research examines the challenges and opportunities of wildlife management at the community level, suggesting that collaborative activity between wildlife managers and community stakeholders can improve identification of human-wildlife interactions and promote a better understanding of wildlife-related effects on the community.
The greatest degree of collaboration between the community and wildlife agencies is co-management, which is a shared responsibility among wildlife managers and stakeholders in a community that represents a significant degree of local community “ownership” in wildlife management. One opportunity to co-manage involves improving stakeholder knowledge of the biological and ecological considerations in wildlife management. In working with the community, wildlife managers have the opportunity to:
- Explain the behavioral ecology and biological needs of the referent species (e.g., predator/prey relationships, habitat requirements);
- Explain how wildlife are responding to human land-use changes, habitat changes, structures, and transportation systems associated with suburban development;
- Articulate wildlife and human ecology so the interplay is evident to stakeholders;
- Explain the biological limits and capacities that influence wildlife and any attempts to manage wildlife; and
- Describe human attitudinal and behavioral traits with respect to wildlife, especially factors affecting tolerance of problems (e.g., wildlife acceptance capacity).
However, most wildlife agencies cannot deal with every wildlife issue at the community level, so one alternative is to collaborate with an educational institution whose purpose is to serve the public interest. Some suggested considerations in determining when to engage in collaborative, community-based wildlife management practices include:
- Have the wildlife agency and the community effectively engaged in community-based wildlife management previously, indicating that the community may have the capacity to assume more responsibility for the process than would otherwise be expected?
- Does the community have a history of producing local leadership to ensure progress in resolving other kinds of public issues (i.e., not necessarily wildlife issues)?
- Does potential exist to partner with community-development educators (e.g., cooperative extension educators) in the community to share in the facilitation and educational aspects of collaborative decision making?
- Does engagement with a particular community present the possibility to be a model for adjacent or nearby communities experiencing similar wildlife issues, and therefore serve as a “demonstration area” that could promote learning and accelerate progress across a broader set of communities?
- Is the situation already too polarized to represent a real opportunity for collaboration or is formal dispute resolution needed as an intervention?
- What is the political significance of the situation; i.e., is agency performance in the specific case vital to maintaining credibility with elected officials and stakeholders at a larger scale?
- What is the nature of impacts being experienced by the community? Where on a hierarchy of nuisance→economic cost→income loss→risk of disease→risk of personal injury does the community’s wildlife issue sit?
- What is the conservation significance of the situation? Does lack of active intervention or participation by the agency risk erosion of public trust status of the wildlife resources in question?