Welcome to the first edition of Conservation in HD, the newsletter of the Human Dimensions Branch of the US Fish and Wildlife Service's Natural Resource Program Center. Each issue will focus on ways to integrate human dimensions--how people value natural resources and how they affect and are affected by management of those resources--into conservation.
We'll provide tips, resources, and success stories to inspire and encourage Refuge System staff and other conservation practitioners to examine the influence of people on our landscapes and recognize the advantages of incorporating social sciences into conservation planning, design, and delivery.
This issue highlights stakeholder engagement - what it is, why it's important, and how to be successful. I hope you find it helpful.
Thanks for your continued support!
Chief, Human Dimensions Branch
US Fish and Wildlife Service
Natural Resource Program Center
Fort Collins, Colorado
Learn about existing tools and resources for understanding community demographics, national recreation and refuge visitation trends, and the role refuges play in the local economy. This webinar is part of the Communication, Outreach, and Visitor Services Webinar Series through NCTC.
Pathways is a conference and training program designed to address the myriad of issues that arise as people and wildlife struggle to coexist in sustainable and healthy ways.
Stakeholder engagement involves working with any individuals or groups that have an interest in the management process. By involving stakeholders in a meaningful way, we can prevent, manage, and resolve conflicts. This can save agency and public time, money and resources, and help ensure successful conservation delivery. From visitors, to refuges, to landowners, to partners, it is important to keep in mind that people can influence the success or failure of management decisions. Differing needs and interests can influence how people value places, landscapes, and ecosystems. Any stakeholder participation process needs to foster a sense of trust, equity, empowerment, and create an environment that promotes learning and understanding.
To ensure you don't "kill" a stakeholder engagement process from the start, the following guidelines can increase the chances of a successful stakeholder engagement process (Reed 2008).
Systematically identify stakeholders and their interests.
Involve stakeholders early and often throughout the process.
Consider where you are in the process and what you'd like to achieve. Make sure stakeholder engagement methods fit the context and stage in the process. A variety of tools will help you be adaptive.
Make sure the objectives of all entities are clear, understood and accepted. This typically requires negotiation and trade-offs.
Skilled, unbiased facilitation is essential!
Integrate local and scientific knowledge for more robust decisions.
Institutionalize systematic stakeholder engagement. You can't afford not to!
"Must Have" Tools and Resources for Stakeholder Engagement
Tools of Engagement Our favorite comprehensive toolkit walks you through the engagement process, providing excellent tips and tools to help you along. This is a living document with resources added over time.
The focus of our next newsletter will be Communicating Our Science. Would you like to share a story, experience, or unique perspective? Do you have ideas for future issues? Let us know at email@example.com.
Top 10 Ways to Kill a Stakeholder Engagement Process!
10. Disregard Joe Smith's 40-year observations of waterfowl phenology.
9. Fail to share your scientific understanding of the issue in a way the audience can understand and care about.
8. Rely solely on a public meeting to engage with a diverse set of interests.
7. Assign staff that is not trained in facilitation to run what you know will be a contentious meeting.
6. In describing the process, tell people,"We have two opportunities for public input--once during scoping and once about 18 months later when we have draft alternatives."
5. Allow the vocal minority to derail the process or project.
4. Fail to do your homework and identify all stakeholders, their interests, and influence on the process.
3. Only meet with folks on one side of the issue because it is easy and you are too busy to meet with others.
2. Pretend that you know the policy, mandates, or rules when you don't!
1. Avoid innovative processes that promote two-way dialogue and understanding among stakeholders.
HD in Action: Stories of Integration from the Field
Perception is Reality by Tim Bodeen
As Refuge Manager of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, I had the opportunity to work on the development of its Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP), applying a collaborative governance planning model to engage all stakeholders and work toward goals that were mutually agreed upon. We partnered with Oregon Consensus to work through challenging, polarizing issues using formal facilitation. I can report that we successfully and collaboratively completed the CCP with overwhelming support from the engaged collaborators. They felt such ownership of the CCP that some entities have committed to fiscally support the CCP's implementation through innovative partnerships.
One of the strongest take-home messages from this collaborative experience was "Perception is Reality." Fear and mistrust often taint our own realities and lead to misperceptions of others. It's important to keep in mind that federal land managers may have their own ideas about non-managers and their interests, and vice versa. Acknowledging this is an important step in the collaborative process.
Our first collaborative meeting was a room filled with over-fifty individuals representing their constituents and refuge staff. Many of these people had been acquainted with each other, and each had his or her perception of the refuge, of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, etc. To address misperceptions and create new realities you must be willing to acknowledge your fears and allow yourself to trust.
This collaborative process did just that for us; simple trust-building exercises, sharing fears and concerns about the process, and the act of spending time with each other changed perceptions about the refuge, its future, and its role in the local community and landscape. Perceptions were changed. Both collaborators and staff had participated in a process that successfully made the refuge relevant to all parties involved and, as a result, ensured the sustainability of our collaboration. My expectations were exceeded, a well-supported working document was produced, and strong, lasting relationships were formed among participants.
Tim Bodeen is a Refuge Manager at Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge and Wetland Management District. Prior to this, Tim was project leader at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
Want to Learn More?
Check out these HD resources available to anyone offered by USFWS' National Conservation Training Center and the Human Dimensions Branch.
Human Dimensions of Natural Resources Conservation Broadcast Archives