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Group-level social influences for carnivore restoration and management


In this dissertation, I conducted research on how perceptions of the group level of the social system influence individuals' perspectives and behaviors related to carnivore restoration and management (CRM) in the U.S. American West. Using the case study of gray wolf (Canis lupus) reintroduction in Colorado, I explored three aspects of the group level of the social system. After nearly 80 years since their extirpation, environmental organizations advocating for wolf recovery introduced a ballot initiative (Proposition 114) that mandates Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the state wildlife agency, reintroduce wolves into Colorado by December 31st, 2023. In November 2020 Proposition 114 passed with about 51% of the votes (Colorado Election Results, 2020), marking the first ever U.S. reintroduction of an endangered species via a ballot initiative. In my first chapter, I used public survey data to explore how intragroup perceptions, or how perceptions of a group one identifies as belonging to, influenced individual and collective civic actions related to wolf reintroduction. I found that social norms influenced intended voting for Proposition 114 and plans for those individuals that opposed reintroduction to engage in collective action against reintroduction. In my second chapter, I used stakeholder interview data to examine perspectives of what would make a stakeholder engagement process, that brings together conflicting stakeholders to collaboratively build recommendations for wolf restoration and management, successful. Stakeholders expected that the process should be representative, transparent, and actively inclusive and that it should foster two-way dialogue. Additionally, to be considered successful, they believed it should achieve the social outcomes of conflict reduction, social learning, increased trust in agency, and increased support for the management plan. Lastly, in my third chapter, I used stakeholder interview data to examine how perspectives of the outgroup, or a group one does not identify as belonging to, influence social conflict about wolf reintroduction. I found that conflict was fueled by perceptions that the outgroup is unjust, misinformed, homogenous, and unmalleable. Overall, my dissertation expands our collective understanding of the multi-scalar influencers to human behavior that affect carnivore restoration and management. Based on these findings, I recommend how to develop interventions and stakeholder engagement that can help achieve desired social outcomes related to CRM objectives.


2023 Summer.
Includes bibliographical references.

Rights Access

Embargo expires: 08/28/2024.


qualitative methodology
stakeholder engagement
conflict reconciliation
wolf restoration
social norms


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