Migratory Bird Program
Conserving the Nature of America

APPENDIX F

SUMMARY OF THE HUMAN DIMENSIONS BREAKOUT SESSION

Jody Enck and Tommy Brown, Cornell University, Co-Chairs

The 12 participants in the Human Dimensions (HD) breakout session identified initially 25 HD issues pertaining to cormorant management in the Northeast. We consolidated these 25 issues into 12 distinct categories, which are listed below in priority order. One of these, lack of a coordinated and effective communications plan about cormorants, was identified overwhelmingly as the most important human dimensions issue by participants. Three other issues were identified as being of second priority; the remainder were low priority issues.

ISSUES:

  • Agencies in the Northeast need to have effective and cooperative communication strategies.
    - Stakeholders are more vocal than governmental agencies.
    - Foster communications between diverse management interests in evolving cormorant management strategies.
    - We as agencies have not convinced stakeholders that we care.
    - Societal attitudes promote suspicion of agencies.
    - Lack of fit between outreach and potential and current scope of the problem.
    - Education outreach to various publics regarding scope of issues.
    - Angling public has strong opinions but inadequate knowledge.
  • Stakeholders have unrealistic expectations of agencies. Must define process of management and policy development to promote better interactions with stakeholders.
  • What recreational and economic impacts, in relation to ecosystem, health, merit controls? Insufficient human dimensions data to support potential decisions and directions.
  • Keep agency partners working together as a unit. Management agencies have conflicting missions and philosophies.
  • Lack of sensitivity to public demands ("big brother knows best").
  • Political will forcing action that may not be supportable or helpful.
  • Assisting affected stakeholders increases tolerance and appreciation of cormorants.
  • Stakeholders have polarized values. Agencies unsure how to weight stakeholder interests. Cormorants do have aesthetic value to some but not to others. Perception that all cormorants cost money.
  • Public involvement process hasn't involved all stakeholders.
  • Stakeholders have unrealistic expectation of fish and wildlife resources.
  • Local interests often one-sided and inconsistent with national government policies and organizations' sentiments.
  • Importance of terrestrial degradation under-recognized by management agencies.

ISSUE: AGENCIES IN THE NORTHEAST NEED TO HAVE EFFECTIVE AND COOPERATIVE COMMUNICATION STRATEGIES REGARDING CORMORANTS.

ELEMENTS OF DISCUSSION:

SCOPE

  • All agencies need strategies, but some have more pressing needs than others.

TIME FRAME

  • Quite important immediately, but the kinds of needs and importance may change as cormorant issues evolve over time.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

  • Habitat degradation is occurring.
  • The public demands action.
  • Effective communication is integral to decision making.

BARRIERS

  • Individual stakeholders think about cormorant issues from a personal perspective whereas agencies talk about cormorant issues in general terms.
  • Stakeholders tend not to be informed about all information.
  • Lack of funds.
  • Lack of priority.
  • Effective communication plans may not be perceived to solve the problem; communication not seen as useful action.
  • Lack of biological data.
  • People are unwilling to change values.
  • Lack of coordination of actions among agencies.

OPPORTUNITIES

  • Use cormorant communication strategy to do better job of communicating about overall agency mission.
  • Build upon and enhance existing communication mechanisms.
  • Enhance agency credibility.
  • Project more proactive agency image.
  • Communicating with other public agencies (not necessarily natural resource agencies) can lead to enhancements in the environment.
  • By communicating better, can develop awareness and interest in public for increasing funding for science.

COMMUNICATION AND EDUCATION NEEDS

  • Educate stakeholders on management process.
  • Develop and communicate clear messages.
  • Communicate about the full scope and facets of the issue (complexity).
  • Communicate about products and services already available for addressing cormorant issues.
  • Inter and intra agency orientation and education about policies and functions.
  • Clear understanding of the problems from the perspective of stakeholders.
  • Determination of implementation and delivery systems.

RESEARCH AND INFORMATION NEEDS

  • See some of the communication and education needs above.
  • Additional biological information (unspecified) as identified by the other breakout groups.
  • Identify target audience, including elected officials and their constituents.
  • Public attitudes about cormorant issue (generic public and within specific stakeholder groups).

RECOMMENDED STRATEGIES:

1. Northeast Administrators should appoint a team to develop a communication plan.

2. A strong communication element should be included in any regional cormorant management plan that is developed.

3. Communication messages should be developed by an interagency team, including support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Sea Grant.

4. Incorporate important research results into the communication plan.

5. Incorporate what we've learned (positive and negative) from previous outreach efforts into communication plan.

6. Identify and describe policies and functions of various agencies regarding cormorants.

7. An interagency team should develop, with various public stakeholder groups, a set of protocols and information needs before any management actions are taken.

8. Obtain information about important tradeoffs stakeholder groups are willing to support or are unwilling to accept.

OTHER ISSUES TO CONSIDER

  • Develop guiding principles.
  • Consider splitting the issues lumped in the #1 priority issue.
  • Economic, recreational, ecosystem and aesthetic concerns.
  • Ecosystem integrity.

GENERAL IMPRESSIONS

Misunderstandings, perceived lack of communication, and uncertainty about how best to communicate what messages and with whom all lead to frustration by both federal and state/provincial staff involved with cormorant management. Communication efforts within and among agencies are needed as much as communication efforts between agencies and various stakeholder groups. Further, enhanced intra and interagency communication requires a clear articulation and understanding of terms (e.g., human dimensions, stakeholder, issue, management). Within the breakout group, various definitions of these terms were being applied without discussion of what they really meant. It became obvious that shared understandings did not exist as the discussion proceeded.

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Last updated: April 11, 2012