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Thunder Basin Prairie Dog Situation Assessment

In early 2015, the Thunder Basin National Grassland, a unit of the U.S. Forest Service, approached the University of Wyoming Ruckelshaus Institute to ask for assistance exploring stakeholder perspectives regarding prairie dog issues and the possibility for engaging in a collaborative process. Click here to read a Forest Service press release about the project.

Thunder Basin National Grassland Situation Assessment and Process Recommendations, 2015

The Thunder Basin National Grassland Situation Assessment and Process Recommendations final report is now available.

A situation assessment entails defining key stakeholders, learning about their perspectives on an issue, and using that information to determine opportunities for managing those perspectives and interests in the decision making process.

Stakeholders are people who will be affected by a management decision. In the Thunder Basin National Grassland, this includes people who use the grasslands for recreation, livestock grazing, or other purposes; landowners adjacent to the grasslands; wildlife managers; local and state government agencies; nongovernmental organizations with interest in wildlife or agriculture issues; and others.

The National Policy Consensus Center defines a stakeholder assessment as "a diagnosis of a situation or conflict to determine whether a consensus process is feasible or likely to waste time and energy," and includes in its checklist of assessment questions:

  • Do the issues appear to be negotiable?
  • Are the interests clearly defined?
  • Is the issue a priority for stakeholders?
  • Is there enough time for parties to deliberate (or is it an emergency situation)?
  • Alternatively, is a deadline “pushing” a decision helping ensure a defined time frame for the process?
among others.

The Ruckelshaus Institute assessed regional viewpoints and perceptions regarding prairie dog management and associated issues on the Thunder Basin National Grassland. The Ruckelshaus Institute conducted, transcribed, and analyzed interviews with approximately 40 individuals who have a stake in prairie dog management in this area to explore:

  1. Stakeholder perceptions regarding current issues in relation to prairie dog management on the grassland.
  2. Are stakeholders willing to work together, and with the U.S. Forest Service, in collaborative problem solving?
  3. If so, what would need to be considered to create a viable process for collaborative problem solving?
  4. If so, what stakeholder types should be at the table, and who would be potential representatives?
  5. Who would be an appropriate convener—the U.S. Forest Service or another organization—for such a process?

 

The Ruckelshaus Institute then compiled and analyzed all of the responses from the interviews. A final report to the Forest Service presented the findings, specifically identifying the priorities and values of the stakeholders as well as their concerns about and suggestions for a possible collaborative process.

Based on the results of the situation assessment, the Forest Service asked the Ruckelshaus Institute to work with them on a collaborative process regarding natural resources management in the Thunder Basin National Grassland.


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