Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2017

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

First Advisor

Deserai A. Crow

Second Advisor

Sharon K. Collinge

Third Advisor

Mark Squillace

Abstract

As the incorporation of stakeholders in rulemaking becomes a more widely used practice, gaining a better understanding of what venues stakeholders use and their capacity to influence agency decision-making is crucial to ensure effective wildlife management. In 2015, the state wildlife agency of Florida, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), reinstated hunting for the Florida black bear. The rulemaking process attracted widespread controversy because of a large subset of stakeholders who were vehemently opposed to the hunt. Using data from six interviews with FWC personnel and stakeholders, as well as public comments from three Commission meetings and documents including original, draft, and final rules related to bear hunting, this study analyzes the role that stakeholders played in the FWC’s decision to reinstate the hunt for the Florida black bear. There were a great deal of opportunities for stakeholders to participate in the rulemaking, and stakeholders were generally aware of and satisfied with those opportunities. Modes of stakeholder participation included providing comments at public meetings, through the mail, by telephone calls, and online via webinars and e-mail. Some stakeholders also interacted with agency personnel in informal meetings throughout the process. Despite extensive opportunities for involvement, stakeholders did not believe that FWC meaningfully incorporated their input into the decision. Stakeholders claimed that other factors, such as powerful political actors and ulterior motives, were higher priorities for agency managers in making this decision. Stakeholders also believed that agency officials were not going to sway from their vision, regardless of the type or extent of public opposition. This thesis concludes with future research proposals to gain a better understanding of the factors that influence agency rulemaking.

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