Identifying conflicts and opportunities for collaboration in the management of a wildlife resource : a mixed methods approach
Context. The sustainable management of many common-pool ecological resources can be strengthened through collaboration among stakeholder groups. However, the benefits of collaborative management are often not realised due to conflicts of interest among stakeholders. Effective strategies for enhancing collaborative management require an understanding of the trade-offs that managers make between different management outcomes and an understanding of the socioeconomic and location-specific differences that drive these preferences. Approaches based on quantitative or qualitative methods alone often fail to reveal some of the underlying factors inhibiting collaboration. Aims. Our aim was to understand the relative importance that private-sector deer managers attach to changes in three outcomes of deer management: deer numbers, deer-related road traffic accidents (RTAs) and deer impacts on conservation woodlands. Methods. We used a mixed methods approach, combining choice experiment methodology with qualitative analysis of focus group discussions from 10 study regions throughout Britain. Key results. Our results show that most of the private sector stakeholders responsible for deer management decisions at the local level would prefer to see a future with fewer deer-related RTAs but do not want to see a future with lower deer population levels. This is especially the case for those stakeholders managing for sporting purposes and those that rely on deer as a financial resource. Conclusions. The preferences of many private sector stakeholders responsible for deer management are at odds with those of private landowners currently experiencing economic and conservation damage from deer, and with the aims of government and non-government bodies seeking to reduce grazing and browsing damage through lower deer densities. Similar barriers to collaborative management are likely to exist in any situations where ecological resources deliver an unequal distribution of benefits and costs among stakeholders. Implications. Overcoming barriers to collaboration requires enhanced understanding of how different collaborative mechanisms are viewed amongst the stakeholder community and how collaborative management can be promoted. More holistic approaches to deer management, which include greater public awareness, additional road traffic speed restrictions and appropriate fencing, or perhaps include deer population reduction as only one of a suite of mechanisms for delivering multiple benefits from the land, are likely to gain more support from private sector stakeholders. Mixed-methods approaches can provide an important first step in terms of both quantifying preferences in relation to the management of ecological resources and enabling detailed insights into the motivations and behaviours underlying them.