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United States wildlife governance unites diverse organizations, professionals across several sectors, and the public around the shared goal of conserving wildlife for current and future generations. Unfortunately, conservation systems and rules lack consistent objectives and often reflect outdated values 

ACSF Researchers Rethinking Wildlife Governance

February 10, 2016

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United States wildlife governance unites diverse organizations, professionals across several sectors, and the public around the shared goal of conserving wildlife for current and future generations. Unfortunately, conservation systems and rules lack consistent objectives and often reflect outdated values that don’t speak to most Americans. Many people working in wildlife conservation feel frustrated because the current approach isn’t working. Important conservation partners and members of the public are disenchanted because their voices are not heard.

Dan DeckerDan Decker

With support from the Atkinson Center, we were able to respond to these pressing needs. Working closely with colleagues in government agencies and NGOs, we built on our previous research to propose a coordinated approach to more socially and ecologically responsible wildlife governance.

We recently published the results of a multiyear conversation about how wildlife governance can adapt to modern values, pressures, and expectations. In our paper, we offer 10 wildlife governance principles (WGPs) to help address persistent problems and meet emerging challenges in wildlife conservation. These principles are informed by research projects, workshops, conference sessions, peer-reviewed papers, and a special issue of Human Dimensions of Wildlife. Publishing the WGPs is an important step toward transforming wildlife governance.

Darragh HareDarragh Hare

WGPs promote coordinated conservation by government agencies, NGOs, and private partners. They combine normative aspirations of public trust thinking, which sees natural resources including wildlife as a natural heritage that must be conserved for all people including future generations, with elements of good governance, which calls for transparency, accountability, and public participation in resource management. Taken together, these ideas produce a governance framework for wildlife conservation that is sensitive to the diverse values of the public and committed to the long-term survival of all species.

Ann Forstchen of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and corresponding author of the paper said:

We listened carefully to what people throughout the wildlife conservation community were telling us and developed WGPs as a response. The principles will make sense to our colleagues working across sectors at multiple levels and scales. They seek to inspire more participatory, fair, and coordinated wildlife management, and ultimately lead to better conservation outcomes—something we are all working toward.

We have also developed a self-assessment tool that wildlife professionals can use to evaluate their agencies’ performance relative to WGPs. State fish and wildlife agencies and the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies have been enthusiastic about this tool. We are refining the tool with input from wildlife professionals in Florida and Michigan, with a view to eventually extending it to all 50 states.

ACSF has been an important partner helping us develop WGPs. ACSF hosted a topical lunch on public trust thinking, provided funding through the Rapid Response Fund for a three-day workshop on campus, and supported travel for key team members. This work embodies ACSF’s commitment to engagement and collaboration and showcases how faculty and research fellows working with partners off campus can tackle major challenges in sustainability.

 

Faculty fellow Dan Decker is chair of the Department of Natural Resources. Darragh Hare is a Natural Resources PhD candidate and Atkinson Center research fellow.