Evolution of stakeholder knowledge, attitudes, and opinions throughout a participative process to develop a management plan for black bears in Virginia


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Virginia Tech


Wildlife management requires understanding resources and involving stakeholders. The process Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) and Virginia Tech used to develop a black bear (Ursus americanus) management plan during 1999-2001 provided me with opportunities to understand diverse stakeholders and examine influences of participation on stakeholder knowledge, attitudes, and opinions concerning bear management. I used focus groups (with 5 key stakeholder groups), pre- and post-planning surveys, and interviews. I surveyed VDGIF biologists and managers (N = 21), members of a stakeholders advisory committee (N = 15), and members of 3 constituent groups representing bear hunters (N = 459), beekeepers (N = 442), and environmental interests (N = 500). I interviewed advisory committee members to validate survey results and evaluate the bear management plan.

Participation apparently improved constituents' knowledge about bear management and their image of VDGIF bear management, and increased their support for controversial management options (e.g., lethal methods), but did not affect their opinions about bear hunting. Participation apparently had little effect on VDGIF staff opinions about bear management. Knowledge varied widely among constituent organizations. Bear hunting continues to be one of the most central, yet divisive, bear management issues in Virginia. Advisory committee members and VDGIF staff expressed satisfaction with the bear management plan and the planning process. Recommendations for wildlife decision-making processes include: balance science and public values in management, use multiple public involvement techniques, establish collaborative forums among stakeholders, reach out to all stakeholders, and nurture relationships with constituents during implementation.



participation, constituents, planning, decision, mediated involvement, advisory committee, values