Values and attitudes of National Wildlife Refuge managers and biologists; Report to respondents

Open-File Report 2002-459




The issues affecting natural resource management, the society in which natural resource management occurs, natural resource agency personnel, and the publics they serve have changed in recent decades. Previous studies of Refuge professionals in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) have revealed that employees lack strong commitment to the current organizational structure, were frustrated with the lack of communication within the agency and felt there was a need for strong leadership (PEER 1998, 1999). These results prompted the authors to have further questions about refuge management in the Fish and Wildlife Service. What do employees value about their agency? Is there a difference in values between refuge managers and biologists and if so, what are those differences and what influences those differences?

Recently, there has been speculation that changes in society and the demographic makeup of natural resource professionals has caused a paradigm shift for natural resource management (Ballard 2002; Brown and Harris 1992abc, 2000; Maestas 2002). But, there has been little work assessing the values, attitudes or behaviors of natural resource professionals to determine if a paradigm shift is really occurring. Most of the work in the field of values, attitudes, and behaviors has focused on the public and their interaction with environmental management issues; such as, endangered species management (Lybecker et al. 2002; Solomon 1998), human-wildlife conflict (Baker and Fritsch 1997; Chase et al. 1999; Jones and Thomas 1999; Mankin et al. 1999), changes in hunting or trapping regulations (Loker et al. 1998; Manfredo et al. 1999; Whittaker and Torres 1998), or management of public lands (Badalamente et al. 2000). The purpose of this study was to gain a better understanding of the values and attitudes refuge employees have toward natural resources.

The goal was to survey National Wildlife Refuge professionals about natural resource management. We surveyed Refuge Managers and Refuge Biologists (n=480) at staffed U.S. National Wildlife Refuges in the contiguous 48 states in the fall of 200 1. We used a modified Dillman design, resulting in a 68% response rate. The objectives of this study were to (1) determine and compare the environmental values of refuge managers and biologists at selected refuges and (2) assess attitudes about various institutional factors (public involvement and planning).

Analyses of data revealed that these managers and biologists did not differ substantially in terms of their environmental values. Refuge professionals were supportive of public involvement in planning and management, but hoped to maintain management authority throughout the process. Professionals were skeptical concerning the applicability of long term planning, but were generally supportive of the planning process. Attitudes toward the Service were conflicting: professionals felt that the Service needed to provide better leadership and direction, but that the Refuge System needed to assert its autonomy and independence from the rest of the Service.

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USGS Numbered Series
Values and attitudes of National Wildlife Refuge managers and biologists; Report to respondents
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Open-File Report
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U.S. Geological Survey
Contributing office(s):
Fort Collins Science Center
iii, 19 p.
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