Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Deserai A. Crow

Second Advisor

Lisa Dilling

Third Advisor

Daniel F. Doak

Fourth Advisor

Benjamin S. Hale

Fifth Advisor

Gary P. Kofinas

Abstract

In 1995, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) reintroduced gray wolves to Yellowstone National Park. Since then, wolf policy and management has been fraught with political conflict. This dissertation analyzes wolf policy and management in Wyoming since 2008, when the USFWS published the first delisting rule for wolves in the Northern Rockies. The central research question asks why conflict persists over wolf policy in Wyoming. Using a mixed methods approach of interviews, media document analysis, and survey data, I investigated political conflict over wolf management at different scales, as well as the dynamics of advocacy coalitions working to advance their preferred policies. First, the Narrative Policy Framework, used to understand how narratives influence policy processes, is applied through an analysis of media coverage of Wyoming’s wolf policy and management. Then, the Advocacy Coalition Framework is utilized to understand long-term changes in coalitions of policy actors in this adversarial subsystem. Findings illustrate that the geographic scale at which coalition members operate may influence the long-term stability of coalitions. Particularly in protracted policy conflicts, local coalition members may seek alternative paths to achieve their preferred outcomes by circumventing the existing policy venue (i.e., through litigation) or adjusting strategies and goals. These findings improve our understanding of the dynamics of coalitions advancing their policy preferences within contested policy arenas. Finally, citizens’ preferences for conflict management between wolves and people are explored. Results indicate that proactive strategies for conflict management should be engaged to mitigate the need for reactive, post-conflict management actions.

In sum, at the community level, collaborative paths forward on policy conflicts may emerge to circumvent the political conflict existing at the state and federal levels of governance. Though this policy arena has been characterized by conflict, there are opportunities at the local level to address challenging issues related to wolf policy and management in Wyoming, though political conflict at the state and federal may continue.

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