Wildlife Conservation and Management in The 21st Century: Understanding Challenges for Institutional Transformation
The biological and social context for wildlife management in the United States is transforming as the human population expands into and consumes wildlife habitat, and citizens? interests and concerns about wildlife become increasingly diverse. Although the context has changed considerably since state-based wildlife management emerged, the founding principles remain largely intact as applied to wildlife management today. Those principles reflect dependencies, both historical and resource-based, between state wildlife agencies (SWAs) and hunters. I use institutional theory to describe the state-based public wildlife management system that exists in the United States as the state wildlife management institution: the people, processes and rules, as well as the norms, values and behaviors, associated with state wildlife management. Situating state-based public wildlife management in institutional theory provided a framework for my inquiry. The primary focus of my research was to assess whether and how SWAs dependent on a single funding source (i.e., hunters) transform due to changes in their dominant funding paradigms. I first interviewed leaders from 24 SWAs (n = 24) to understand how their agencies had responded to pressure to secure nontraditional funding. Strategic behaviors of these SWAs ranged from resistance to active transformation. Informed by these interviews, I suggest a typology of organizational response reflecting the context of state wildlife management. The typology is offered as a tool to help understand SWAs? ability to make strategic changes regarding funding. Next, I used a multiple case-study approach to examine four SWAs to provide insight into whether and how funding influenced their ability to change. I found SWAs with secure, alternative funding demonstrated organizational transformation to address diverse stakeholder interests. States without secure, alternative funding had more difficulty addressing changing and increasing demands for services. These SWAs had been unable to garner the political capital necessary to secure funding. Finally, I focus on one element of the Institution often criticized as an impediment to reform: governance structure. I examine how three types of democratic decision-making models, representative, direct and participatory, are used to affect wildlife policy. I describe a hybrid approach encompassing certain elements of both representative and participatory democracy that would ensure effectiveness of governance, improve representation, and increase inclusivity regarding issues with broad public interest. This collection of papers provides insight into the ways some SWAs have transformed by broadening their goals, activities, and boundaries to meet diverse societal needs. Availability of alternative funding facilitated this reform, but organizational culture shifts were a necessary antecedent to achieving funding goals. Securing broad-based funding will likely drive reform of the institutions? governance structure. Improving representation and inclusivity of governance processes will be essential to ensuring accountability with those who fund wildlife conservation and management. Addressing a diversity of public interests and developing a strategy for change will improve the state wildlife management institution?s chances of maintaining legitimacy with society.
Wildlife Management; Institution; Reform; Funding
dissertation or thesis