This chapter focuses on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) request for guidance on addressing divergent and conflicting perspectives about free-ranging horse and burro management and on considering stakeholder concerns while protecting land and animal health.
BLM is obliged to manage free-ranging horse and burro populations in a way that satisfies the requirements of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act (P.L. 92-195). In making decisions about how to do so, it must also address the public’s concerns and expectations under the National Environmental Policy Act (P.L. 91-190). As was pointed out in Chapter 7, the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act leaves considerable room for interpretation of its mandates. In 1982, the National Research Council noted that public opinion was the “major motivation behind the wild horse and burro protection program and a primary criterion of management success,” suggesting that control strategies must be responsive to public attitudes and preferences and could not be based only on biological or cost considerations (NRC, 1982, p. 54).
A variety of stakeholders want to participate in shaping policy and management decisions before proposed actions are taken, and there are ways for BLM to make use of their input. This chapter discusses several approaches for improving communication with the public and leveraging public participation to increase confidence in decisions about the free-ranging horses and burros under BLM management. While not repeating information easily available elsewhere, the report highlights important elements of various techniques and approaches to working with the public.
The possible approaches include conducting research to understand stakeholder values and the economics of different management regimes better; using appreciative inquiry to reduce the tension between polarized views; and creating opportunities for greater public participation through structured decision-making, adaptive management, and citizen science. The likelihood of success in improving communication, earning the support of different segments of the public, and improving management decisions will be substantially increased if the activities to engage the public are themselves planned, evaluated, and
monitored with public collaboration under the guidance of practitioners of social science with a process called analytic deliberation. Using those tools successfully will require BLM to make a commitment to public engagement and provide the staff and resources to enhance the potential for success.
In a comprehensive study of attitudes toward animals, Kellert and Berry (1980) found that of 50 species of animals, the horse was the second-most liked animal by U.S. respondents, behind only the dog. Horses maintain immense cultural value as symbols of grace, beauty, companionship, and courage (Nimmo and Miller, 2007; UHC, 2009).
Given the complexity of issues surrounding free-ranging horses and burros, it is not surprising that Nimmo and Miller (2007) refer to them as having a pluralistic status: their bodies and behavior are sites of conflict. Various members of the public (including all those interested in or affected by a decision [Dewey, 1923]) differ in the values that they attach to free-ranging horses and burros, and some parties have strongly held perspectives on the issue (Symanski, 1994; White and Ward, 2010). In some citizen groups, horses are highly valued and beloved animals that should receive a greater share of BLM resources. In other organizations, free-ranging horses are competition for agriculture and wildlife and interlopers and stressors of fragile ecosystems.1
Differing values and beliefs regarding the “tameness” of animals may cause some stakeholders to value them differently. The dispute regarding whether the free-ranging horse is a re-established native species was reviewed by the National Research Council (1980, 1982), but there is more recent science on the issue (see Weinstock et al., 2005). The viewpoint that the free-ranging horses are an invasive species may factor into the decision-making of those who consider them an unnatural addition to the landscape of the United States (Coates, 2006; Rikoon, 2006; Nimmo and Miller, 2007). The view of the horse as an invasive species contrasts sharply with the iconography of the horse as central to the “traditional” West and native to the North American landscape.
Scientists note that the morphology of horses—including their flexible lips, elongated head, and digestive system—make them unique consumers on the American West landscape, using resources differently from other grazers, such as cattle (NRC, 1980; Beever, 2003). Horses consume more rangeland forage per unit of body weight than their ruminant counterparts (see review in NRC, 1980). That disparity in forage consumption is argued by many stakeholder groups to cause inequitable resource allocation because calculations used by BLM to set stocking rates consider a horse to be the equivalent of a cow-calf pair in terms of forage consumption (see Chapter 7).
These conflicts illustrate why policy to manage the free-ranging population should be carefully attentive to divergent public values. It is important to have a management plan that accounts for the opinions and concerns of a variety of stakeholders—not only scientists and advocates but a variety of community members and parties that may have strongly
1 During the public-comment sessions of the committee’s meetings and in written comments submitted to the committee, it heard from representatives of such groups as the American Farm Bureau Federation, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, the Animal Welfare Institute, the Cloud Foundation, the Equine Welfare Association, the National Association of Conservation Districts, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association, the Public Lands Council, the Western Watersheds Project, the White River and Douglas Creek Conservation Districts, and the Wildlife Foundation and from many members of the public expressing a wide variety of opinions on the management of horses and burros on public lands.
held perspectives on the issue (Symanski, 1994; White and Ward, 2010). Decisions will have to take these values into account.
It is unlikely that all the values involved can be monetized in a way that is satisfactory to all parties, so use of economic policy tools such as benefit-cost analysis and contingent valuation, although potentially informative, is not able to resolve value differences fully and is not adequate to support decisions. In particular, a vocal, mobilized segment of the public argues that the free-ranging horse and burro population has the right to exist because the animals have intrinsic value. It considers free-ranging equids a “cultural service,” and such services are notoriously hard to monetize (NRC, 2005; Reid et al., 2005; Chan et al., 2012). Beever and Brussard (2000) note that managers often cannot satisfy all interest groups, but they can help to shape public attitudes if they communicate research findings transparently.
However, the flow of ideas should not be unidirectional, from scientists to the public. It is important to recognize that values are the lens through which the public views scientific issues related to free-ranging horses and burros. Values come into play in creating conflict, for example, where the economic and regulatory environment determines in large part whether a species is considered a “pest” or a “resource” (Zivin et al., 2000) or “feral” or “native,” with all the attendant implications for management (Box 8-1). Conflict can also emerge with uncertain information or poor management performance. For the public, the priority that BLM gives to free-ranging horses and burros on federal lands, relative to other uses, reflects the values of BLM.
For example, some members of the public, arguing that horses should be treated as a native species, point to recent molecular genetic evidence showing that today’s free-ranging horses are similar to the native horses that roamed North America before their extinction more than 7,000 years ago (Weinstock et al., 2005). Others say that they are domestic in that U.S. free-ranging horses descend from European stock and cannot be considered “native” because the complex of animals and vegetation has changed since horses were extirpated from North America. Whether the split between the ancient and modern lineages is sufficiently old for them to be considered two species still needs to be clarified (B. Shapiro,
Management of Animals Perceived as Both Wild and Feral
Polarization of opinion on the value of particular species has been demonstrated in community debates concerning the management of deer (Wright, 2009), feral pigs (Zivin et al., 2000), buffalo (Albrecht et al., 2009), feral cats (Lloyd and Miller, 2010), and free-ranging horses (Rikoon, 2006). The differing public opinions regarding the management of particular species, especially those considered to be feral, have inspired resource managers to adopt innovative approaches to managing wildlife populations. Feral describes animals that are wild but descended from domesticated stock. Recreational hunting has been proposed to manage feral pigs (Zivin et al., 2000), and initiatives to trap, neuter, and return feral cats are common across the United States (Lloyd and Miller, 2010). In each of those examples, the cultural role of a species in a given society is a factor in how individual animals are treated and managed, and different cultures have different views on management. Taking careful account of those views acknowledges that policy should inevitably be based on both scientific evidence and human values. As Bhattacharyya et al. (2011) noted, the debate over whether free-ranging horses are wild or feral is highly complex and involves a wide variety of issues, including the behavioral and physiological traits of different horse populations, their effects in different ecosystems, and disparate human values and perceptions of nature.
Pennsylvania State University, email communication, August 23, 2012). However, a more pertinent set of questions is related to whether the distinctions should matter and, if so, how in the management of free-ranging horse and burro populations.
Acquiring a better understanding of such perspectives and their implications for management policy was recommended by previous National Research Council reports (1980, 1982) that addressed BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program. The reports highlighted the need for research into the social context for free-ranging horse and burro management, including a recommendation to fund studies that would evaluate what aspects of free-ranging horses and burros were most important to the public.
The 1980 report addressed social considerations. That report noted the lack of empirical data on public attitudes about free-ranging horses and burros or on the relative values associated with free-ranging horses. That committee noted one study by Rey (1975), who surveyed recreationists and other resource groups in the Pryor Mountains area regarding wildlife and the benefits associated with free-ranging horses. It also noted that other sociopolitical analyses had been written (see Appendix C of the 1980 report). That committee recommended research projects (a sentiment echoed in the 1982 report) to provide a base of socioeconomic and political data to facilitate decision-making in connection with equid management. Suggestions for research, listed by priority, were the following:
- Taxonomy of values and benefits of free-ranging horses and burros.
- Costs of free-ranging horse and burro management alternatives.
- Economics of management alternatives drawn from proposed research programs.
- Public preferences for alternative management and control strategies.
- Analysis and evaluation of demands for excess free-ranging horses and burros.
- Nonmarket values of free-ranging horses and burros.
- Public attitudes, behaviors, and knowledge regarding free-ranging horses and burros.
- Conceptual development of public-rangeland management models. (NRC, 1980)
It is unfortunate that BLM did not conduct this suggested research because a better understanding of the knowledge and values that frame public opinion about free-ranging horses and burros would give BLM managers insight and possibly help them to find more ways to bring polarized groups into a deliberative process. Such research is needed to help BLM design constructive opportunities for public participation in BLM’s decision-making process—a key to gaining public support for free-ranging horse and burro management.
When ecological science is combined with social science, an ecologically and sociopolitically sound management program is possible (Nimmo and Miller, 2007). The preceding chapters in this report and earlier reports by the National Research Council make it clear that decisions regarding the management of free-ranging horses and burros should draw on the best available scientific information. It is equally clear that scientists and managers will continue to make decisions despite unanswered questions and a high degree of uncertainty. For example, the effects of climate change on horse and burro habitats cannot be projected with certainty. Even as substantial effort is being allocated to “downscaled” climate models that will improve projections at scales useful for ecosystem management, uncertainty in projections of key parameters will persist (White and Ward, 2010). Fertility control also presents uncertainty. What is the timeline for a longer-term fertility-suppression drug to be developed and made available to BLM? Additional information is needed about how the various fertility-control treatments affect horse social behaviors and interactions,
in addition to information about how the drugs are administered, in order to improve understanding of how fertility-treatment outcomes might compare to those from gathers.
One possible method to gather the latest information from experts and to focus it on a particular problem is to use a Delphi process. This process involves iterative engagement with experts via anonymous surveys or group meetings (Webler et al., 1991). The eventual outcome is a summary of agreement among the experts that has been steadily developed over the course of the process (Dietz, 1987a; Rowe and Wright, 2001).
As more is learned and uncertainty is reduced, will it reduce controversy about management strategies? Without understanding the reasons for differing values and coming to grips with why different publics see things in different ways, it will be difficult to build broader support for management decisions. The remainder of this chapter discusses ways of engaging the public in decision-making so that polarization can be reduced and BLM can formulate plans that draw on the research, experience, and values that are essential to informing decision-making. In order to create more socially and ecologically sustainable approaches to free-ranging horse and burro management, it is necessary to increase public acceptance of and confidence in BLM management decisions by engaging the public in a clearly articulated and transparent process of public participation and decision-making.
During the committee’s information-gathering sessions, some individuals and groups provided comments to the committee that expressed a lack of confidence in BLM management, some using the phrase “managing to extinction” to characterize the agency’s attitude and some taking issue with the agency’s transparency, whether in reporting accurate numbers of horses that are on the range, projecting reproduction and population growth, describing the underlying rationale for the development of appropriate management levels (AMLs), reporting the effects of roundups on animal welfare, managing the health of horses in captivity, or assessing the physiological and behavioral effects of different contraceptive approaches. Some of those issues involve scientific information examined in the preceding chapters of this report, in which the committee found varied completeness, consistency, uncertainty, and transparency (Box 8-2). Left unaddressed, or at least unacknowledged, such shortcomings in the scientific information used for management undermine confidence in agency decisions, especially when it seems that efforts are made to reduce the visibility of the knowledge and information gaps.
Attempts to resolve conflicts in which values and opinions about land management are polarized often turn to principles of community-based public participation and engagement in decision-making. Slocum and Thomas-Slatyer (1995) argued that communities need to be empowered to participate in decisions that affect them because they have
Transparency involves openness, communication, and accountability and is important in building trust and relationships with the public. Considered essential to effective public participation, a transparent process ensures continuing communication and public access to information and is critical from the earliest through the final stages of the process (NRC, 2008).
knowledge relevant to the solutions needed. Free-ranging horse populations are situated in specific geographic locations, and it is necessary that local communities that interact with the animals or are affected by management decisions be represented in some way in the decision-making process, along with nonlocals, including national lobbying groups. A community-based approach can incorporate science, the mass media, and public opinion into the decision-making process, and this facilitates a deeper understanding of the issue at hand. However, although public participation and engagement are popular phrases in policy discussions, they have not always been implemented in ways that enhance knowledge and public support. Effective public participation can be identified by the degree to which consensus is able to emerge from the gathering, sharing, and processing of pertinent information by and with all the relevant parties (Rowe and Frewer, 2005).
The literature provides numerous examples of effective engagement of public values in making natural-resources policy decisions. The next section begins with a review of public engagement in framing plans for managing free-ranging horses in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand, and then discusses the use of specific processes to engage the public in wildlife management.
Studies of Public Participation in Management of Free-Ranging Equids
In a study of public engagement in management of free-ranging horses in Australia, Chapple (2005) discovered that when top-down management systems and aerial culling were imposed on free-ranging horses, there was a lack of community support. The author found that the role of expert scientific advice was insignificant in the decision process (a policy ban on aerial culling was instituted contrary to scientific recommendations) and that there was a low level of commitment to community involvement that alienated community members. In addition, community forums did not adequately respond to community concerns.
Nimmo and Miller (2007) conducted a comprehensive review of the human dimensions of management of free-ranging horses in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. They noted that no studies of the human dimensions of managing free-ranging horses appeared in the peer-reviewed literature at the time of their writing, although horses had been the focus of some “gray literature” social research. That literature included the results of opinion surveys in a number of locations, including Kellert and Berry’s 1980 survey. In 1997, free-ranging horses were considered pests by 13.6 percent of survey respondents in Victoria, Australia (Johnston and Marks, 1997); by 2005, that number had risen to 21 percent (Nimmo, 2005). In the same study, 50 percent of respondents indicated that aerial culling was “never acceptable” and that alternative (nonfatal) methods were preferred. Most of those surveyed by Fraser (2001) responded that they would like to see free-ranging horses in the New Zealand countryside. Finch and Baxter (2007) found that most Queensland respondents thought that free-ranging horses were not pests (25 percent) or were only slight pests (26.1 percent). In New South Wales, 40 percent of respondents indicated a desire for free-ranging horses in national parks (Ballard, 2005).
Nimmo and Miller (2007) discussed case studies in each country. They found, not surprisingly, that in the United States there has been great contention over the management of free-ranging horses. The 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act states that the horses are a “national treasure” and a symbol of the “historic and pioneering spirit of the West.” When BLM took action in 1978 (Public Rangelands Improvement Act, P.L. 95-514) to reduce the increasing numbers of free-ranging horses, the American public objected (Symanski, 1996).
In Australia, the Australian Conservation Commission of the Northern Territory (now the Parks and Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory) offered to assist pastoralists who wanted free-ranging horses gone from their land when it discovered that free-ranging horse populations had reached over 200,000 in the mid-1980s. However, animal-rights organizations around the world objected, and the International Court of Justice for Animal Rights tried and convicted members of the Australian government for the massacre of horses (International Court of Justice for Animal Rights, 1987; Symanski, 1994). Eventually, a government report concluded that reducing horse populations was most effectively accomplished by aerial culling, but that this course of action, and any management plan for horses, needed to involve all interested parties (Dobbie et al., 1993). The targeted shooting of animals was supported by the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) at the time, which deemed shooting acceptable as a last resort option. AVA stated that only trained, licensed marksmen familiar with horse anatomy should take part in well-regulated culls (AVA, 2002). The culling of 600 horses in New South Wales in 2000 resulted in an outcry from citizens and social groups, as there were reports of inhumane practices (Reuters, 2000) and interested parties were not adequately consulted in advance (Berman, 2011). The cull occurred in an area of habitat that AVA said was not suitable for aerial culling and was one of the largest removals that had ever been conducted. Since then, additional methods of managing the horses have been explored, including passive trapping and rehoming (adoption). The Australian management agency formed a working group to involve local communities in management decisions about free-ranging horses.
In New Zealand, the southern Kaimanawa Mountains hosted a small population of free-ranging horses in the early 1980s. Because of their low numbers (under 200), the horses were given protected status, and over the next decade the population grew to an estimated 1,100. Concerns about deteriorating range health caused by the growing horse population led to the formation of a working group that amended a management plan. Aerial culling was one of the management methods included in the plan, but it engendered public opposition. The New Zealand government compromised and, in place of aerial culling, implemented a gather and adoption plan. The first year saw over 1,000 animals removed; some were adopted, and others were slaughtered. Since then, the program has removed about 100 animals each year, most of which have been adopted out successfully.
Bureau of Land Management Processes for Engaging the Public
There is a continuum of potential levels of participation in decision-making processes, ranging from simply informing stakeholders to sharing decision-making authority with them (Figure 8-1). BLM tends to operate in a consultative manner, midway along the continuum. Although public participation in federal land management is mandated by the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), the law has been interpreted to mean that the agency must inform the public and listen to comment (Moote et al., 1997).
NEPA requires that “all federal agencies involve interested publics in their decision-making, consider reasonable alternatives to proposed actions, develop measures to mitigate environmental impacts, and prepare environmental documents which disclose the impacts of proposed actions and alternatives.”2 The agency publishes an environmental impact statement or an environmental assessment showing what the environmental effects
FIGURE 8-1 Types of public involvement in agency decision-making.
SOURCE: Adapted by A. Sulak from CEQ (2007) and Germain et al. (2001).
of a proposed action will be or showing “no significant impact” and requests public comments and information.
BLM can consult with the public in many different ways within the confines of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) of 1972 (P.L. 92-463) and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) of 1946 (P.L. 79-404). Under FACA, a process for establishing, operating, overseeing, and terminating advisory bodies is formalized with the goal of ensuring that advice by the various advisory committees formed over the years is accessible to the public. APA requires that agency rules line up with the U.S. Constitution and with an agency’s statutory commands from Congress. Legal scholars have argued that final decision- making authority must remain with the agency and cannot be devolved or abdicated outside Congress’s reach (Coggins, 1995, 1999; Moote et al., 1997). One study concluded that the “concept of shared decision-making is in direct conflict with federal officers’ responsibilities to Congress” (Moote et al., 1997). These restrictions have been interpreted as limiting BLM to a “consultation” model for public interaction. Whatever the participatory or collaborative model, agency personnel should be absolutely clear about the laws, regulations, and policies at play so the collaborative solution falls within acceptable legal parameters (BLM, 2007).
BLM has worked to bring stakeholders into the decision-making process through advisory boards and committees, such as the Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board, a national BLM advisory body that holds public meetings, and the Resource Advisory Councils (RACs), 29 regional and state groups that advise BLM on resource-management issues. Such entities do not make decisions but have input into them.
The Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board meets regularly to discuss issues and to advise BLM. Board members are selected to represent various interests: free-ranging horse and burro advocacy groups, free-ranging horse and burro research institutions, veterinarians, natural-resources organizations, humane advocacy groups, wildlife associations, livestock organizations, and the general public. Board members are appointed by the secretary of the Department of the Interior and the secretary of the Department of Agriculture. Board meetings and calls for board nominees are published in the Federal Register.
The RACs in the western states have direct effects on horse and burro management because of their role in the development of Land Health Standards and Guidelines. These guidelines are generally used to assess whether the “rangeland deterioration” prohibited by the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 (as amended) is taking place. The RACs also advise BLM on other aspects of managing free-ranging horses and burros. In fact, RAC recommendations address all public-land issues, including land-use planning and recreation. According to the website for the RACs,
Each RAC consists of 12 to 15 members from diverse interests in local communities….Each Council must include representatives of three broad categories: commercial/commodity interests; environmental and historical groups (including wild horse and burro and dispersed recreation); state and local government, Indian tribes, and the public at large.3
BLM has attempted to go beyond consultation to more collaborative “land use planning processes,” as described and recommended in its Land Use Planning Handbook (BLM, 2005). AMLs for free-ranging horses are established and maintained through a land-use planning (LUP) process, the multiple-use decision-making process4 that is associated with an allotment evaluation, or both processes. Appendix A of the Land Use Planning Handbook provides a guide to collaborative planning that states that “collaboration implies that Tribal, state, and local governments, other Federal agencies, and the public will be involved well before the planning process is officially initiated, rather than only at specific points stipulated by regulation and policy” (BLM, 2005, p. A-1). That document makes a number of recommendations and highlights the legal and political responsibilities of BLM, including consultation with tribes. It recommends inclusiveness, accountability, full disclosure of agency responsibilities and roles of the participants, and recognition of the limitations of the process.
Although the objectives of the LUP process include better decisions, improved relationships, and leveraged resources, many of the frustrations experienced by stakeholders (as described to the committee in information-gathering sessions) are related to the opacity of the sources of information that feed into the process of establishing AMLs, which undermines the transparency of the LUP process.
Finally, although volunteer and observation programs are not decision-making efforts, they do facilitate direct interaction with the public and may help to build trust and relationships with stakeholders. BLM has a volunteer program that engages the public in the adoption program in particular. Volunteers mentor those who are adopting horses, help with compliance checks on adopted horses, and help with rangeland improvement. When it is feasible for horse and human safety, the public may be invited to observe gathers.
3 Resource Advisory Councils. Available online at http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/info/resource_advisory.html. Accessed November 20, 2012.
4 Multiple Use Decision Process. Available online at http://www.blm.gov/nv/st/en/prog/grazing/multiple_use_decision.html/. Accessed October 11, 2012.
Methods for Successful Public Participation
Moving into more collaborative processes would be helpful in creating long-term constructive relationships with the concerned public. Although it is true that not all decisions are appropriate for collaborative processes, the committee believes that in the case of planning for the management of free-ranging horses and burros, substantive public participation is warranted because of the depth and breadth of public concern and the need for a long-term, sustainable program. In all these processes, however, the limitations on what BLM can and cannot do collaboratively should be clear to all participants from the outset.
There are a number of well-developed methods for encouraging public participation in public-lands decision-making and management. The goal is not only to reduce conflict but to improve the quality of decisions. Here, the committee reviews four methods of participatory decision-making that focus on helping the public, scientists, and managers to work together: appreciative inquiry, structured decision-making, participatory adaptive management, and analytic deliberation. The four frameworks are not mutually exclusive; many of their criteria overlap. For example, the adaptive-management model in which management is designed as an experiment could be part of any of the other three decision-making processes. After discussing the four approaches, citizen science is reviewed. There is considerable interest emerging in citizen science; it is one way for the public to participate in science as part of participatory adaptive management or any other decision-making framework.
At the heart of all the participatory processes is the fostering of the development of a shared understanding of the ecosystem, of an appreciation of the viewpoints of others, and of working relationships, which some characterize as based on trust but which the committee might argue may be based on transparency and balance of power. Some researchers have described the development of a “hybrid culture” of shared norms and values as a key to creating an effective management and decision-making process with participants of diverse backgrounds and viewpoints (Earley and Mosakowski, 2000; Sulak and Huntsinger, 2012).
The contentions that often divide the public from experts can lead to resentment on the part of all involved, whether because of the perception that public participation is a hindrance to an investigation or the notion that experts consult with the public only to push an agenda (NRC, 2008). As part of a well-planned initiative, the Cooperrider et al. (2008) tenets of appreciative inquiry (AI) can be used to ameliorate some of the tensions that may arise when people who have differing opinions are asked to weigh in on a highly contested subject. AI advocates for the reframing of problem statements to focus foremost on a community’s strengths. Every project, this approach argues, should begin with appreciation of what is working well in the social system. Central goals of AI are to identify and describe the characteristics of the system that are positive and to reinforce the capability of society members as agents of change and transformation (Cooperrider et al., 2008).
Rather than initially “problematizing” the issue of free-ranging horses and burros with negative language, AI encourages members of the public and investigators to look at what is functioning well in the system and to build on existing strengths. For example, rather than focusing exclusively on the fact that there are more horses in need of adoption than there are adopters, a task force using AI may reframe the problem statement to acknowledge that thousands of horse owners in the United States have taken an active role in horse management by choosing to adopt free-ranging horses and that these adopters could
potentially be used as a resource in other aspects of the management plan. The tone and frame of community engagement can set the stage for cooperation, trust, and collaboration. AI is intended to inspire members to work within a framework of positivity and common experience and could be useful in engaging people who might have to capitulate on their views. In an AI process, Wright (2009) used “deliberative dialogue” to resolve citizen conflict around the contested issue of the management of free-ranging deer in a local community. A series of key steps were initiated to achieve deliberation: awareness and education, task-force planning and proposal development, submission of task-force proposal to public for input, presentation of task-force proposal to the city council, implementation of the plan, and monitoring of actions and plan modification. The public forums were held on three occasions, which gave residents a chance to voice their views. During the forums, citizens were urged to consider the long-term and short-term effects of each tactic in their deliberations. Wright concluded that dialogue and deliberation as problem-solving tools must be grounded in the historical and material realities of individuals as well as the situated character of local knowledge. The participants found that they could elucidate their opinions and values more effectively after the dialogue and deliberation of the forums and in turn were more able to comprehend the ideals and concerns of their peers. In short, having an improved understanding of others’ experiences can reduce conflict among stakeholders.
Structured decision-making is a process by which a problem is methodically analyzed and decisions are reached to facilitate the achievement of clearly defined objectives. The process is made up of simple steps that allow flexibility in problem-solving and deals directly with the issues of transparency and legal compliance. It incorporates public opinion, while maintaining a firm foundation in scientific evidence. Each component of the decision-making process—objectives, available actions, and potential outcomes—can be analyzed separately for more effective execution. This method of decision-making lends itself particularly well to complex issues that involve government agencies, public stakeholders, and the scientific community.
Berkes (2010) exemplifies structured decision-making by outlining the stages of incorporation of community participation and adaptive comanagement into environmental conservation: deliberation; visioning; building social capital, trust, and institutions; capacity-building through networks and partnerships; and action-reflection-action loops for social learning. For example, Blumenthal and Jannink (2000) documented ways to incorporate change and growth into existing program models by continuous monitoring, re-evaluation, and information collection.
In the case of management of free-ranging horses, Chapple (2005), like Blumenthal and Jannink (2000) and Berkes (2010), recommended implementing policy that can adapt and adjust to new information, feedback, and knowledge. Analysis of a management program’s effectiveness is a part of the cycle, and new data gleaned through careful monitoring can be incorporated into practice to make an initiative more effective (Kelsey, 2003; Garmendia and Stagl, 2010). Stringer et al. (2006) documented that different types of stakeholders can play key participatory roles at different stages in the management process and that multiple participatory mechanisms can be used at different stages. Although there is a demonstrated need for adaptability in participatory research, strong planning and structure ensure that adaptive measures fall within sound program designs (Von Korff et al., 2010).
Planning might include research on how to approach the next step of a discussion with the public. For example, to analyze which approaches to communication about risk would
improve decision-making, Arvai et al. (2001) had six to eight groups of seven to 10 people participate in one of two types of risk-communication workshops: alternative-focused (risk-focused) and value-focused. By comparing groups that focused on potential adverse outcomes with groups that reframed the issue with favorable outcomes, the authors determined that focusing on values led to more thoughtful discussions and better-informed decisions. Thus, the exploration, a priori, of the terms in which a problem is framed for the public discussion is a possible step in the use of structured decision-making. That is an example of how background research like that recommended by previous National Research Council reports (NRC, 1980, 1982) could help in preparation for public participation.
Because of its somewhat formulaic and hierarchical nature, structured decision-making lacks the flexibility of some other participation processes, such as adaptive management and analytic deliberation.
Holling (1978) and Walters (1986) first developed adaptive management for the stewardship of natural resources, and it has since been used for agricultural and sociopolitical issues (Lee, 1994; Stankey et al., 2005). A process that emphasizes fexibility and continual learning (Holling and Meffe, 1996; Walters, 1997), the adaptive-management framework, as originally proposed, calls for designing management actions as experiments, learning from the experiments, and adjusting management as more is learned about the system (Herrick et al., 2012). Gradually, a model or body of knowledge about a system that enables improvements in management capacity is developed. Adaptive management has been identified as particularly appropriate in the context of climate-change uncertainty (Nichols et al., 2011) and could be adapted for such situations as management of free-ranging horses and burros, in which knowledge of the complex interactions between free-ranging equids and their environment and other species is insufficient, the climatic trajectories of arid rangelands are in flux, and the annual variation in weather, forage production, and horse populations is high and difficult to predict. Chapter 7 discusses the potential use of adaptive management for examining the basis of setting AMLs. Involving the public, scientists, and managers in adaptive management is suggested as a means of creating an enhanced learning-based and research-based setting for management (McLain and Lee, 1996).
In a participatory process, stakeholders may participate in the setting of goals, design of experiments, monitoring and interpretation of results, and adjustment of management practices to various degrees that depend on the situation. Indigenous knowledge can be incorporated in an adaptive-management approach but, like scientific perspectives, needs to be tested (Toledo et al., 2003). Rather than a process of trial and error, adaptive management is ideally a hypothesis-driven exercise carried out by managers and stakeholders (Walters, 1997) who use controls and replication.
A participatory adaptive-management process for the setting and adjustment of AMLs, for example, might involve testing the effects of different herd levels on wildlife habitat. With the objective of meeting the stipulation of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971(as amended) to protect wildlife, stakeholders—including scientists, the public, and managers—could decide on an AML to be tested, examine together the outcomes of monitoring (or even participate together in monitoring), and, on the basis of the results, propose adjustments of the AML. For adaptive management to be effective, objectives and hypotheses must be clearly defined. Agreed-on goals or objectives will serve as the baseline against which changes or progress can be measured (Stankey et al., 2005). As noted in Chapter 7, the explicit incorporation of measures of uncertainty into studies is essential.
Adaptive management could provide much-needed transparency for BLM’s management of free-ranging horses and burros. Because it is a flexible system (Holling and Meffe, 1996; Huntsinger, 1997), it allows managers to experiment with a variety of policies and actions to determine which provide the desired management outcomes (Walters, 1997). That could be particularly useful for BLM, given the number and variety of stakeholders involved in this issue. BLM could implement “experimental” policies to determine whether they produce desired outcomes. Later, management actions could be adapted on the basis of the previous outcomes, and BLM could provide a clear view of its practices to stakeholders.
However, even complete transparency in practices and information sources will not resolve the issues faced by BLM because of fundamental differences in values unless stakeholders engage with and buy into the process. Hence, public participation is crucial in any adaptive-management process that involves free-ranging horses and burros. Recognizing that different groups bring different values and agendas to public participation, adaptive management can foster both a common understanding and acknowledgment of others’ views (Fernandez-Gimenez et al., 2008) and increase confidence in the information generated.
An example of the importance of participation in adaptive management was provided by Kelsey (2003), who argued that it must be used in conservation measures to incorporate lay and traditional ecological knowledge that may not be available to scientific authorities. In a study of Canadian biodiversity, traditional knowledge was found to be under represented and undervalued despite its important implications for conservation. To remedy that knowledge gap, public participation and the inclusion of other stakeholders were used.
Williams (2011a) provided a precautionary note, pointing out that Gunderson (1999) reported that, for some institutions engaged in natural-resources management, history and tradition may pose barriers to implementing adaptive-management approaches that require greater flexibility and tolerance of uncertainty. Yet Williams (2011a) concluded that “utilizing management itself in an experimental context may in many instances be the only feasible way to gain the understanding needed to improve management.”
Adaptive management in its original form—management as “experiments”—has also been criticized for its expense and for the length of time it takes to adjust management on the basis of field experiments (Herrick et al., 2012). Various alterations of the original model have been promoted, including “passive” adaptive management that does not require experiments (Walters, 1986; Williams, 2011b) and incorporation into a “holistic” framework (Herrick et al., 2012). The recently published Department of the Interior Applications Guide for adaptive management provides guidelines for federal agencies, including BLM, on using adaptive management (Williams and Brown, 2012).
For more than a decade, the National Research Council has urged an approach to environmental and resource-management problems that has come to be called analytic deliberation (AD) (NRC, 1996, 1999, 2007, 2008, 2011). AD takes its name from a hybrid of scientific analysis and public deliberation, two activities that have often been pursued as separate endeavors by resource-management or regulatory agencies but that can be mutually informing and supportive when conducted in coordination with one another. In a sense, the AD approach acknowledges that the public has a form of expert knowledge that complements and informs scientific analysis (Dietz, 1987b). The AD approach emphasizes the importance of sound science but also recognizes that there will be multiple views on
the part of the public and that the public can be skeptical of scientific analysis applied to policy and management decisions.
A substantial body of research, summarized in Public Participation in Environmental Assessment and Decision Making (NRC, 2008), shows that carefully designed AD processes that engage the public can substantially reduce conflict over natural-resources decision-making. In particular, that report concluded that in the case of local to regional issues, where face-to-face engagement over time is feasible, it is possible to develop highly effective processes for public participation that not only improve the quality of agency decisions but make the decisions more transparent from the perspective of the citizens involved, increasing the chances that the decisions will be supported and implemented. Many of the issues involved in horse and burro management are local to regional in scope—for instance, management techniques that are suitable for one ecosystem may not be applicable to another, and different Herd Management Areas (HMAs) will be managed for different needs and uses (U.S. Congress, 1997). Those are the types of cases in which AD has been used most effectively.
There are four principles for the design of a participatory process: inclusiveness of participation, collaborative problem formulation and process design, transparency of the process, and good-faith communication (NRC, 2008). The AD approach calls for iterative interactions between agency representatives, the public, and social-science practitioners in a shared stewardship of the participatory process itself, beginning when a problem or question to be addressed is defined (Dietz and Stern, 1998; Tuler and Webler, 1999; Webler and Tuler, 2005; NRC, 2008). In a “best-process regime,” the participants collectively identify important difficulties in or challenges to the effectiveness of the process on which they are about to embark. Challenges might include, for example, a high level of uncertainty related to the available scientific data, legal constraints on the agency, and disparate views of the participants. Box 8-3 contains a list of questions suggested for the diagnostic phase of the process to prepare a solid footing for effective participation (NRC, 2008). After diagnosis, participants collaboratively design tools and techniques for addressing or mitigating the challenges identified, whether joint fact-finding about the uncertainty of information, ensuring the airing of all views, or, in light of disparate values, seeking commonality in outcomes. Deliberative or social mapping could provide a way to assess the areas in which stakeholders hold similar or divergent opinions (Fiorino, 1990; Burgess et al., 2007) and what key issues are most important to them. With this information, outcomes can be used to inform further actions (Burgess et al., 2007). As the participatory process (in whatever format it may take) unfolds, the practitioners, participants, and agency representatives continue to evaluate the process, formally or informally, to understand whether and how well the previously identified hurdles are being overcome and to adapt or implement changes when they are needed. Using AD to shape and monitor the participatory process helps to build public confidence in the scientific analysis for those who might otherwise be skeptical or simply reject the science underpinning management decisions (Chilvers, 2007), reducing the extent to which value differences are confused with differences about facts (NRC, 2008).
The 2008 National Research Council report on public participation in decision-making developed key principles for carrying out public involvement that are particularly relevant to the social considerations aspect of the Wild Horse and Burro Program (see Box 8-4).
There is substantial literature describing the design of the analytic-deliberative process (Dietz and Pfund, 1988; Dietz and Stern, 1998; Renn, 1999; Tuler and Webler, 1999; Kinney and Leschine, 2002; Jasanoff, 2003; Webler and Tuler, 2005; Burgess et al., 2007; Chilvers, 2007). Box 8-5 describes two analytic-deliberative design recommendations that might
Diagnostic Questions to Assess the Challenges to Public Participation in a Particular Context
Questions about scientific context
- What information is currently available on the issues? How adequate is available information for giving a clear understanding of the problem? Do the various parties agree about the adequacy of the information?
- Is the uncertainty associated with the information well characterized, interpretable, and capable of being incorporated into the assessment or decision?
- Is the information accessible to and interpretable by interested and affected parties?
- Is the information trustworthy?
Questions about convening and implementing agencies
- Where is the decision-making authority? Who would implement any agreements reached? Are there multiple forums in which the issues are being or could be debated and decided?
- Are there legal or regulatory mandates or constraints on the convening agency? What laws or policies need to be considered?
Questions about the abilities of and constraints on the participants
1. Are there interested and affected parties who may have difficulty being adequately represented?
a. What does the scale of the problem, especially its geographic scale, imply for the range of affected parties?
b. Are there disparities in the attributes of individual potential participants that may affect the likelihood of participation?
c. Are there interests that are diffused, unorganized, or difficult to reach?
d. Are there disparities across groups of participants in terms of their financial, technical, or other resources that may influence participation?
2. What are the differences in values, interests, cultural views, and perspectives among the parties? Are the participants polarized on the issue?
3. Are there substantial disparities across participant groups in their power to influence the process?
4. To what degree can the individuals at the table act for the parties they are assumed to represent?
5. Are there significant problems of trust among the agency, the scientists, and the interested and affected parties?
a. Are there indications that some participants are likely to proceed insincerely or to breach the rules of the process?
b. Are some participants concerned that the convening agency will proceed in bad faith?
c. Do some participants view the scientists as partisan advocates and so mistrust them?
SOURCE: NRC (2008, Table 9-1).
serve as a starting point for BLM, but the committee emphasizes that the details of the design should be tailored to the specific context (NRC, 2008).
Finally, three of the recommendations of the 2008 National Research Council report on public participation in decision-making are particularly relevant to the social considerations aspect of the Wild Horse and Burro Program: clarity of purpose and commitment to the process of participation, provision of adequate funding and staff for implementation, and a commitment to self-assessment and learning from experience. It is important to note that one of the most strongly argued points of that report is that the only way to develop effective public-participation processes is for the agency, practitioners, and public
Basic Principles for Carrying Out Public Involvement
- Clear purpose: The convening organization and the participants should agree on the goals and objectives, the scope of legally possible actions, and the constraints on the process.
- Agency commitment: The agency responsible for the relevant decision should be committed to the process and take seriously the results.
- Adequate capacity and resources: The process should be scaled to the level of resources available, but also the convening organization should make sure the resources are sufficient to run an acceptable process. Resources include more than just money; having continuity of staff is also known to be important.
- Timeliness in relation to decisions: The process should be designed so that it can come to closure in time for the results to have an influence on the decision-making.
- Focus on implementation: Processes should be designed to relate in clear ways to the decision. Agencies need to be clear about what they can and cannot do.
- Commitment to learning: The process should be adaptable and should use mid-course formative evaluation to enable the convening organization to learn how to run a better process.
- Inclusiveness: Better processes involve the full spectrum of interested and affected parties.
- Collaborative problem formation and process design: People should be meaningfully involved early on to substantively shape the focus and structure of the process.
- Intense deliberation: Processes are more successful when people spend more time in face-to-face interaction.
- Transparency: It is better for processes to have clear objectives and purposes and for the conveners to give clear information about the way the process will unfold, opportunities to participate, and information and other inputs that are available.
- Have a competent discussion: This requires having transparent decision-relevant information and analysis, attending to facts and values, being explicit about assumptions, acknowledging uncertainties, having independent reviews, and iterating between technical analysis and stakeholder deliberation.
SOURCE: NRC (2008).
participants to work together to address the diagnostic questions developed in the report to assess the situation and then follow the best process regime described in it. Thus, the committee cannot provide recommendations about the practice of public participation save to reiterate what that report says. The 1996 and 2008 National Research Council reports are explicit that the development of a specific set of operations can only be done in context because each is situation-specific.
However, given the high level of public concern regarding the management of free-ranging horses and burros, the diverse values that come to bear on the issue, and the substantial scientific uncertainty that is inevitable in dealing with such complex issues, effective public-participation practices are essential. Therefore, BLM should engage with the public in ways that allow public input to influence agency decisions, develop an iterative process between public deliberation and scientific discovery, and codesign the participatory process with representatives of the public. In addition, because there are also concerns about horses and burros among the national, not just the local and regional, public, it would be appropriate for BLM to support research by using survey methods that go beyond opinion polls to capture tradeoffs in public concerns and thus improve understanding of public perceptions, values, and preferences regarding horse and burro management.
The mixture of AD and AM can be cost-effective. It is true that sound AD and AM require a commitment of resources, but minimizing public controversy with effective AD
Examples of Specific Principles Suggested for Deliberative Policy Decisions
Dietz and Stern (1998, p. 442) provided four main principles to be considered in conflict over biodiversity policy:
- The deliberation should involve all perspectives that can offer insights into the policies under consideration.
- The deliberation should begin early, when the policy and scientific questions are first being formulated, and continue in iteration with other forms of analysis until a decision is made.
- The deliberative process must be carefully structured so that it promotes discussion, not posturing.
- Deliberation does not need to produce a consensus or resolve all of the conflicts.
Renn (1999, p. 4) advocated three consecutive steps in a “cooperative discourse model” on energy policy and waste disposal issues:
- Identification and selection of concerns and evaluative criteria. All relevant stakeholder groups are asked to reveal their values and criteria for judging different options. All relevant value groups must be represented.
- Identification and measurement of impacts and consequences related to different policy options. Evaluative criteria are operationalized and transformed into indicators by the research team or an external expert group and then reviewed by the participating stakeholder groups. Once approved by all parties, the indicators are used to evaluate the performance of each policy option on all value dimensions.
- Conducting a discourse with randomly selected citizens as jurors and representation of interest groups as witnesses. These panels evaluate and design policy options based on the knowledge of the likely consequences and their own values and preferences. Random selection ensures that all potentially affected persons have an equal chance to be included in the sample, including people with nonpolarized views which facilitates mutual understanding and consensus seeking.
and finding successful policies and practices through AM reduce costs in the long run, especially if they reduce the number and scope of lawsuits. For example, BLM could link AD and AM to figure out how to sterilize the right number of animals each year and in each location to achieve an unknown ideal free-ranging population while minimizing the number of animals gathered and put into holding facilities. The AD process could help to clarify issues of public concern while informing the public about the issues that BLM faces. Thus, AD forms the basis for designing AM experiments. After the experiments have run for a reasonable time, another AD process could be used to extract management lessons learned from the AM experiments.
In recent years, public participation has moved toward more active interaction and collaboration between stakeholders and managers in research and monitoring processes (Fortmann, 2008). Joint monitoring, in which stakeholders participate in or observe monitoring efforts associated with management, has been shown to build trust and improve relationships among participants (Fernandez-Gimenez et al., 2008).
Miller-Rushing et al. (2012, p. 285) noted that members of the public have been actively engaged in scientific research for centuries (usually observing the world around them), producing “important datasets, specimen collections, and scientific insights of all types.”5 Citizen science expands the role of the public in scientific research, and this leads to a more informed public and enhanced scientific education and insights (Miller-Rushing et al., 2012). Henderson (2012) argued that citizen scientists need to be more fully engaged in the scientific process beyond data collection; they should be involved in the development of research projects and in the interpretation and reporting of results.
A review of citizen-science collaborative monitoring efforts concluded that they provided a focal point for resolving conflicting interests, encouraged collective learning, and raised awareness about the interdependence between human systems and natural ecology (Fernandez-Gimenez et al., 2008). Adaptive-management processes can incorporate stakeholders into decisions about research topics, monitoring regimes, and interpretation of results. Although there is no doubt that satisfying the demands of scientific rigor is challenging (Fernandez-Gimenez et al., 2008), for an issue that has been so contentious it may be worth time and effort to develop such programs for free-ranging horses and burros.
Interactive websites that allow participants to discuss issues and report observations can broaden opportunities for participation to the global level (Kelly et al., 2012). In a study of the role of the Internet in collaborative adaptive-management processes, the authors found that the Internet played an important role throughout the adaptive-management cycle by supporting communication through the dissemination of information to the public and increasing the transparency of the scientific process. The Internet also played a small but important role in public consultation by providing a forum for targeted questions and feedback from the public. In the BLM context, the Internet could be an important complement of more face-to-face local interactions. Meetings and local activities privilege some stakeholders, but the Internet can allow a more widely scattered group or those who have heavy family and work obligations to participate.
Austin et al. (2009) offered a good example of the use of citizen science to engage the public in decision-making. They used participatory GIS to give stakeholders opportunities to document deer abundance on landscape-scale maps. The method was useful in contributing to incomplete scientific knowledge about abundance data, and this informed wildlife research and management. Investigating further, Austin et al. (2010) found that the management priorities of private-sector managers of deer differed from those of private landowners. Deer caused ecological and economic damage to private property, making landowners bear a disproportionate share of the costs of deer management.
FeralScan6 is an online tool that allows users in Australia to map the presence of “pest” species, document movements and damages caused, and share that information with other users. At the time this report was prepared, horses were not included in the species in the program.
The use of “scout” programs has been found to enhance public engagement in free-ranging zebra conservation and management in Africa. A scout program that paid local pastoralists 2 days each week to record the number of Grevy’s zebras seen during the course of a day brought valuable income to the community, but it was observed that “just as important is the empowerment that comes from gathering the data and owning the results, whether good or bad” (Rubenstein, 2010). Similarly, scouts recruited from communities in
5 The past, present, and future of citizen engagement in science were reviewed in a special issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment (Vol. 10, August 2012).
the Samburu District of Kenya kept records on the location, group structure, and habitat of Grevy’s zebra herds. Those records were valuable for conservation planning. Scout participation also served to develop greater understanding of and a more favorable attitude toward wildlife conservation in the community. When citizens are involved in management, both agencies and citizens ideally learn to appreciate the needs and concerns of other participants.
BLM has involved the public in a consultative way in the past, but to move to the right in Figure 8-1 toward a collaborative process, BLM and the public must come together to work in new ways and with a new spirit. To accomplish that goal, the committee offers some specific suggestions for getting the public engaged in the decision-making processes surrounding the management of free-ranging horses and burros.
As the 1980 and 1982 National Research Council reports noted, research on a number of topics related to social and economic valuation of free-ranging horses and burros would provide a foundation for analytic deliberation and other means of public participation. BLM may have already laid some of the groundwork for the exploration of possible fronts on which to engage the public in participatory decision-making. In 2010, the BLM Office of the Inspector General noted that
In June 2010, BLM invited interested stakeholders to offer their opinions and suggestions about its “Working Toward Sustainable Management of America’s Wild Horses and Burros—Draft Goals, Objectives and Possible Management Actions—June 2010” document. BLM planned to develop its strategy to find solutions that are best for wild horses and burros, wildlife, and the many other uses of the public lands by working closely with partners, stakeholders, the public, and employees to develop a strategy. In October 2010, BLM announced key findings based on the public response to the strategy development document, which included the following: many Americans continue to be passionate about wild horses and burros and their management; there continue to be very different views about how America’s wild horses and burros should be managed. These include 1) focusing management on a smaller number of “Treasured Herds” on “preserves” or sanctuaries in the West; 2) reducing the AML of wild horses and burros or implementing aggressive population suppression; and 3) returning wild horses and burros to their original 1971 Herd Areas or expanding the use areas to other places on public lands, while allowing natural processes to adjust population size. (OIG, 2010, p. 12)
The differing views about appropriate management strategies offer potential platforms for the use of the approaches described in this chapter.
The 1982 National Research Council report concluded that on the basis of the available data on public attitudes toward equid management, three factors needed to be considered in designing equid-removal programs: the humaneness of the control procedure, the specificity of its effects, and its cost-effectiveness. That report emphasized that the public was especially concerned about the possibility of pain and cruelty during equid removals. The public is also concerned about the treatment of animals after removal from public lands (in adoption or under the care of BLM) (GAO, 2008). Those may be important topics around which the public could be engaged in analysis and the development of solutions. The committee suggests that BLM continue its volunteer programs in horse and burro adoption and the public observation of gathers; these actions would facilitate the agency’s direct interaction with the public and may help build trust and relationship with stakeholders.
BLM could do more with how people want to feel close to the animals, such as making it possible for people to see them easily in at least one or two places. That was also suggested in the 1982 National Research Council report. It would be useful to consider a webcam set up in a few places where the animals come often. That would build on the affection that people have for the animals and give them a chance to see for themselves that the animals are there. The public might participate in some kinds of monitoring with the webcams. When it is feasible, BLM should develop ways for stakeholders to participate in research and monitoring. Interactive web technology can facilitate stakeholder participation in gathering and reporting information about free-ranging horses and burros.
Also of potential use in involving the public in the management of the free-ranging horses and burros would be reporting all equid sightings and their numbers and distinguishing markings if possible as part of the official counts of free-ranging equids. The public could provide high-quality photographs of horses to be used in mark-resight population counts as part of the official counts of free-ranging equids. It would be important that photographs be taken of both the marked (distinguishable) and unmarked (undistinguishable) horses to provide accurate count estimates, and care should be taken to avoid resighting animals that are more commensal with humans and animals that are less “camera-shy.” The image data would be most credible and valuable for BLM if photographs were automatically date-stamped and time-stamped and linked to GPS locations.
In addition, the creation of a large citizen-science network would be helpful. Cornell University sponsors the Christmas Bird Count in which people go out 1 day a year and in a systematic way count all birds that they see and send in the data. Such data are being used to see whether range changes are resulting from climate change. As the committee learned from the invited public presentations, mark-resight studies are the best way to estimate population-size changes, habitat use, and movements that potentially can connect HMAs and thus help to mitigate loss of genetic heterozygosity. They would constitute a powerful strategy for engaging the public and improving the available information. Volunteer groups have engaged with BLM and have been trained by Dr. Jay Kirkpatrick to dart horses with the porcine zona pellucida vaccine. As of January 2013, these volunteer groups treated five herds of less than 150 animals in four states (Philipps, 2012). In addition, BLM has partnered with the Nevada Department of Corrections and the Nevada Department of Agriculture to gentle and train free-ranging horses and burros for adoption.7
Many citizens and some scientists (see Kirkpatrick, 2010) view free-ranging horses as native to North America, and addressing this question would increase the validity of this report of BLM’s management strategy for some stakeholders (and indeed some people may decide to shelve the report for not addressing the issue). The committee suggests that convening a forum of experts on the biology and ecology behind the horse’s status as native or feral might be one way to address these issues. The forum should be open to the public so that all can listen and learn.
The management of free-ranging horse and burro populations is an issue of concern in many countries of the world and in the eastern part of the United States. BLM could provide links on its website to national horse management associations in other countries and to the National Park Service management of horses on Assateague Island, Shackleford Banks, and Cumberland Island. Access to that information would provide the American public
7 Bureau of Land Management Saddle Horse Training Program. Northern Nevada Correctional Center/Stewart Conservation Camp. Available online at http://www.blm.gov/nv/st/en/prog/wh_b/warm_springs_correctional.html. Accessed February 13, 2013.
with a broader view of international and national equid management issues, strategies, and solutions and an improved understanding of BLM management objectives and operations.
In addition, developing and updating a public website on BLM’s management of horses and burros would be valuable. The committee recommends that BLM develop and maintain such a site. Timely updating and the inclusion of public comments (and BLM’s responses) would be essential to maintain good faith in the process.
Ultimately, BLM itself will have to determine which types of questions are amenable to participatory processes and can best serve the purposes of informing management decisions and increasing public confidence, although public input into the initial determination could also be useful. As noted earlier, such efforts will require a commitment to public engagement and the resources to carry out the process, which are necessary if the agency is to achieve its mission.
Horse and burro management and control strategies cannot be based on biological or cost considerations alone; management should engage interested and affected parties and also be responsive to public attitudes and preferences. Three decades ago, the National Research Council reported that public opinion was the major reason that the Wild Horse and Burro Program existed and public opinion was a primary indicator of management success (NRC, 1982). The same holds true today. To complicate matters, the public holds disparate values related to free-ranging horses and burros. Some groups perceive free-ranging horses as highly valued animals native to North America, icons of the Western landscape, and deserving of more BLM resources; others see free-ranging horses and burros as invasive “feral” species in competition for rangelands and stressors of fragile eco systems. Values are the lens through which the public understanding of scientific issues related to free-ranging horses and burros is focused, and management decisions should navigate these divergent public values.
Regardless of the diversity of public opinion on free-ranging horses and burros, there is broad consensus that the current management conditions for these animals are not sustainable (GAO, 2008) and that the ever-increasing number of horses kept in long-term holding facilities should be mitigated. BLM is faced with the problem of finding and implementing a cost-effective management strategy that is based not only on the best scientific evidence but on reducing polarization and increasing public confidence in its decision-making.
The committee believes that attempts to resolve polarized public values and opinions should draw on the principle of community-based public participation and engagement in decision-making, an analytic-deliberative process that engages lay people and experts in a constructive consideration of management options. Local communities that interact with the animals or are affected by management decisions should be represented in decision-making in a collaborative process that engages the public, scientists, and managers and that fosters the development of a shared understanding of the ecosystem, appreciation of the viewpoints of others, and the development of good working relationships based on transparency and the balance of power. A forum of experts could be convened to address one of the most contentious issues among the public: the biology and ecology related to the horse’s status as native or feral. The forum should be open to the public so that all can listen and learn.
The committee encourages BLM to develop new ways to engage the public in the management of free-ranging horses and burros. For example, citizen-science networks may
be used more extensively to collect data on herd population-size changes and habitat use. Other efforts tailored to local needs should be explored.
With respect to formal, long-standing participatory processes that BLM could use, the committee reviewed four—appreciative inquiry, structured decision-making, adaptive management, and analytic deliberation—and concludes that the analytic-deliberative approach is the most appropriate for use in the Wild Horse and Burro Program. Carefully designed analytic-deliberative processes that engage the public have been found to substantially reduce conflict over natural-resources decision-making, improve the quality of agency decisions, make the decisions more transparent from the perspective of the citizens involved, and increase the chances that the decisions will be supported and implemented (NRC, 2008).
The analytic-deliberative approach is particularly relevant to resolving the conflicts surrounding the Wild Horse and Burro Program because it is founded on the principles of inclusiveness of participation, collaborative problem formulation and process design, transparency, and good-faith communication (NRC, 2008). When public participation is shaped and monitored by the analytic-deliberative process, public understanding and confidence in the scientific analysis can be improved and conflict over values can be mitigated. To ensure the effectiveness of the analytic-deliberative process, BLM should have clarity of purpose and commitment to the participatory process, should provide adequate funding and staff for implementation, and should commit to self-assessment and learning from experience.
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