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Title:Understanding perceptions of social-ecological systems and preferences for the future in protected area communities
Author(s):Johnson, Dana Nichole
Advisor(s):van Riper, Carena J
Contributor(s):Stewart, William P; Metxger, Marc J
Department / Program:Natural Res & Env Sci
Discipline:Natural Res & Env Sciences
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Social science
natural resource conservation
protected area management
mixed-methods research
human dimensions of the environment
Abstract:There are few intact natural ecosystems remaining in the world. In Alaska, vast tracts of public land include entire ecosystems and support well-being and quality of life for tourists and local residents. Denali National Park and Preserve and Denali State Park in particular, are prime examples of how public land management agencies are faced with challenging tradeoffs among healthy ecosystems, local economies, and the needs of diverse stakeholders. The communities surrounding Denali are composed of diverse interest groups that hold multiple visions for the future of natural resource management. Incorporating these perspectives in the decision-making process is critical for balancing ecological and human well-being, as well as ensuring social-ecological landscapes are resilient. Community perspectives in protected area management are often underrepresented, but essential to fostering environmental stewardship and establishing collective visions for the future of these areas. Understanding and balancing visions is challenging because residents often hold distinct priorities for land use based on a diversity of factors; however, understanding how people vision for the future is useful for developing management strategies that respond to stakeholder priorities and shifting landscape conditions as a result of climate change. Therefore, my research addressed the following questions: 1) How do local residents characterize change in the Denali region as a social-ecological system? 2) How do residents express their preferences for the future of the Denali region based on landscape attributes and environmental attitudes? Using two distinct datasets, I first drew on a social-ecological resilience framework to understand how residents in the Denali Region characterized the landscape as a social-ecological system. Results from a fuzzy cognitive mapping exercise completed by residents during focus groups and interviews across six communities in the Denali Region showed the region was characterized primarily by tourism, Wilderness, sense of community, and subsistence use. Climate change and large-scale development emerged as the key drivers of change from the fuzzy cognitive mapping study. Next, I sought to understand how anticipated regional climate change impacts influenced preferences for four attributes that were evaluated as part of a quantitative discrete choice experiment in a regional household survey. I found that tradeoffs were made among the relative importance of moose populations, acres of forest managed for fire, off-season tourism growth rate, and cost. I then tested the moderating effects of specific attitudes toward each attribute to determine how preferences varied across individuals. Findings from the discrete choice experiment showed that preferences varied within the sample and across degrees of environmental attitudes. My research advances social-ecological understandings of the region and provides guidance for local governance structures to build resilience and plans for adaptation in the face of physical, social, and economic change. Further, findings from these studies can be applied to guide development of more inclusive approaches to protected area management that represent residents’ perceptions and preferences for the future of protected area systems.
Issue Date:2021-07-12
Rights Information:Copyright 2021 Dana Johnson
Date Available in IDEALS:2022-01-12
Date Deposited:2021-08

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