Land Use Diversification and Intensification on Elk Winter Range in Greater Yellowstone: Framework and Agenda for Social-Ecological Research


Julia Hobson Haggerty, Kathleen Epstein, Michael Stone, Paul C. Cross


Rangeland Ecology & Management


Amenity migration describes the movement of peoples to rural landscapes and the transition toward tourism and recreation and away from production-oriented land uses (ranching, timber harvesting). The resulting mosaic of land uses and community structures has important consequences for wildlife and their management. This research note examines amenity-driven changes to social-ecological systems in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, specifically in lower elevations that serve as winter habitat for elk. We present a research agenda informed by a preliminary and exploratory mixed-methods investigation: the creation of a “social-impact” index of land use change on elk winter range and a focus group with wildlife management experts. Our findings suggest that elk are encountering an increasingly diverse landscape with respect to land use, while new ownership patterns increase the complexity of social and community dynamics. These factors, in turn, contribute to increasing difficulty meeting wildlife management objectives. To deal with rising complexity across social and ecological landscapes of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, future research will focus on property life cycle dynamics, as well as systems approaches.



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