Conflicts often arise in the management of natural resources. Often they result from differing perceptions, varying interpretations of the law, and self-interests among stakeholder groups (for example, the values and perceptions about spotted owls and forest management differ markedly among environmental groups, government regulatory agencies, and timber industries). We extend the conceptual approach to conflict resolution of Anderson et al. (1999) by using information-theoretic methods to provide quantitative evidence for differing stakeholder positions. Importantly, we assume that relevant empirical data exist that are central to the potential resolution of the conflict. We present a hypothetical example involving an experiment to assess potential effects of a chemical on monthly survival probabilities of the hen clam (Spisula solidissima). The conflict centers on 3 stakeholder positions: 1) no effect, 2) an acute effect, and 3) an acute and chronic effect of the chemical treatment. Such data were given to 18 analytical teams to make independent analyses and provide the relative evidence for each of 3 stakeholder positions in the conflict. The empirical evidence strongly supports only one of the 3 positions in the conflict: the application of the chemical causes acute and chronic effects on monthly survival, following treatment. Formal inference from all the stakeholder positions is provided for the 2 key parameters underlying the hen clam controversy. The estimates of these parameters were essentially unbiased (the relative bias for the control and treatment group's survival probability was -0.857% and 1.400%, respectively) and precise (coefficients of variation were 0.576% and 2.761%, respectively). The advantages of making formal inference from all the models, rather than drawing conclusions from only the estimated best model, is illustrated. Finally, we contrast information-theoretic and Bayesian approaches in terms of how positions in the controversy enter the formal analysis.
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Kullback-Leibler information in resolving natural resource conflicts when definitive data exist