America's Wildlife Values Report Released

America's Wildlife Values Report Released

Results from one of the largest research efforts to assess the “human dimensions” of wildlife management were released at the end of April. The America’s Wildlife Values report features national statistics for all 50 states as well as state level reports with the intent of assessing the social context and understanding the growing conflict around wildlife management. The research project was administered by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and the Midwest Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and was sponsored by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) through a Multistate Conservation Grant. The lead investigators for the project were Michael Manfredo and Tara Teel from Colorado State University and Alia Dietsch from The Ohio State University; Mark Duda and Andrea Criscone of Responsive Management supported the data collection process.

The authors outline how a global value shift from survival values to individualism, autonomy, and self-expressive values has occurred over the last 50-100 years, due in large part to improved economic stability in society. This process – associated with higher income, urbanization and education – has also affected wildlife value orientations impacting public expectations of fish and wildlife agencies and wildlife policy.

“As income, education and urbanization increase, we see people adopting a more modernized lifestyle, resulting in less direct experience with wildlife,” explained Tara Teel, one of the lead investigators and a professor at CSU. “People aren't as likely to interact with wildlife in their day-to-day lives. Instead, they learn about these animals in indirect ways, by seeing them on television or social media, where animals may be depicted as more human-like. This helps shape a new way of thinking about wildlife and wildlife-related issues”

Specifically, the authors describe the increase in “mutualists,” people who embrace wildlife as part of a person’s extended social network, versus “traditionalists” who see wildlife as subordinate and should be used in ways that benefit humans. They also identify two other orientations: pluralists who see different situations or contexts as affecting whether they are more mutualist or traditionalist; and distanced who have low levels of thought about and interest in wildlife. Across the U.S., traditionalists make up 28 percent of the population, and mutualists make up 35 percent of the population. When compared with trends reported in a 2004 Wildlife Values in the West study covering 19 western states, the average change per state was a 5.7 percent drop in traditionalists and a 4.7 percent increase in mutualists.

As AFWA president and executive director of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Ed Carter notes, “There is no single pathway to create broader relevancy for state fish and wildlife agencies. This study will help agencies identify and challenge internal assumptions about who ‘the public’ is and what ‘the public’ wants or believes.”

May 15, 2019