Broad values as the basis for understanding deliberation about protected area management

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The success of protected areas in addressing global environmental change depends on the development of management strategies that are inclusive of broad values held by local community members. Here, we report on results from a longitudinal and quasi-experimental study that engaged community members in deliberation around their visions for the future of protected areas in Interior Alaska. Following a regional household survey, we purposively assembled three groups of residents according to the relative strength of their broad value orientations. Each group was engaged in online discussions over a month-long period time and a thematic analysis of the resulting transcripts was performed to understand: (1) the perceived benefits and threats facing protected areas, and (2) reflections on how public land management agencies should improve decision-making to better incorporate the perspectives of residents. Results showed that the landscape provided a multitude of benefits, such as natural beauty, opportunities for living an Alaskan lifestyle, and sense of community. Conversely, climate variability, ambivalence toward tourism, and large-scale development were the primary perceived threats. Residents also shared recommendations for how to build meaningful public engagement processes rooted in a philosophy of ‘inclusive conservation’ that solves sustainability science problems by balancing the consequences of different visions for nature-based solutions. Text-based patterns of deliberation showed that broad values affected the topics of discussion and social learning that occurred in small but meaningful ways. We suggest that people with similar values can hold distinct visions for the future, and that shared spaces for deliberation are important for enabling collective action. We also contend that protected area management decision-making should be transformed through the adoption of a value-based framework whereby guiding principles and relational learning are actively weighed in the process of developing more sustainable solutions for society’s most pressing natural resource management problems.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSustainability Science
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)449-467
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 03.2024

Bibliographical note

Funding for this research was provided by a Cooperative Agreement with the National Park Service (P18AC00175) and a project called ENVISION funded through the 2017–2018 Belmont Forum and BiodivERsA joint call for research proposals, under the BiodivScen ERA-Net COFUND program, and with the support of the following national funders: Swedish Research Council for Sustainable Development (FORMAS), Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Germany, Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), US National Science Foundation (Grant No. 1854767), and the Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación, Spain (Grant PCI2018-092958 funded by MCIN/AEI/ ). The authors also thank for the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin and the Center of Advanced Study, German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) (Grant No. 01LC18064), and the University of Illinois Campus Research Board (RB19119).

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Japan KK, part of Springer Nature 2023.