Wolf conflicts: Optimizing socio-ecological sustainability in large carnivore management
Despite attempts to include affected stakeholders in large carnivore management, and in spite of the ambition to reduce conflict and increase acceptance for the species, large carnivore presence continues to be controversial in areas with high large carnivore populations. In more closely studying large carnivore management in three Swedish counties, each with diverse geographies and histories of large carnivore presence, this project will contribute with knowledge about ecologically and socially sustainable large carnivore management. The theoretical perspective is inspired by research on collaborative governance and environmental communication. The project uses a mixed method approach for data collection, which includes a content analysis of large carnivore policy and management plans, participant observations and interviews.
Since Sweden listed the wolf as a protected species in 1966, the country is witnessing the formation of a stable and growing wolf population. This change has enlivened debates between various societal groups and further enhanced human-wildlife conflicts. Human wildlife conflicts can be between humans and wildlife, but more often are between humans about wildlife when it is presumed that wildlife conservation efforts are prioritized over human needs, or when local people are not given the power to address conflict. Sweden’s current collaborative governance model for wildlife management focuses on strategies for increased decentralization and deliberation, as a way to balance different interests and reconcile local concerns without compromising wildlife population viability. While the return of the large carnivores to the Scandinavian landscape can be defined as a policy success, the difficulties to manage the accompanying conflicts has been discussed and criticized for not being sufficiently designed to allow for effective, adaptive and legitimate outcomes. The increasing numbers of large carnivores and accompanying incidents of livestock depredation, as well as the Swedish EPA (SEPA) initiative to spread out the concentration of wolves to other parts of the country, combined with the advance of conflicts between groups with different environmental values, has led to increased focus on mitigation measures to improve the chances of surmounting the current conflict-laden situation. However, governance measures that are not seen as relevant or practical to the stakeholders – such as offering material compensation for a problem that is based on a perceived threat to one’s identity – can instead worsen the social conflict. Seeing as policy can either remedy or exacerbate conflict, research on the context and conditions of governance to explain its outcome, and why measures do not yield consensual solutions and fail to provide empowerment in state politics and policy implementation is needed.
In more closely studying large carnivore management in three Swedish counties, each with diverse geographies and histories of large carnivore presence, this project aims to generate knowledge about what contributes to an ecologically and socially sustainable large carnivore management.
- How do decision-makers and stakeholders rationalize decisions within current large carnivore policy and management plans, and how is this communicated between actors?
- What does a comparison between regions mean for best practices for an ecologically and socially sustainable large carnivore management in Sweden?
The research project uses a mixed method approach for data collection, which includes a content analysis of large carnivore policy and management plans, and interviews. The main methodology is an ethnographic approach to closely study practices within regional and national large carnivore management through participant observations.