History and belief coalitions in conservation conflict. A case study of conservation and management of wolves and wild boar in the Western Carpathians.
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Human-wildlife conflict (HWC) is a key issue facing wildlife conservation. The Western Carpathians are the site of increasing human-wildlife conflicts as the human population grows, more land is developed, and wolves make a comeback in Europe. The negative interactions of HWC result in costs for humans, their resources, wildlife, and habitats. Research indicates HWC is often driven by underlying human-human conflicts, known as conservation conflicts. In the Western Carpathians, groups of stakeholders clash over the level of protection of the wolf, and the appropriate management of the wild boar population. Conservation research however pays little attention to social factors driving conservation conflict, or factors that promote cooperation in conservation. This research begins to fill this gap by exploring how local historical developments in the Western Carpathians influence stakeholder cooperation in the conservation and management of wolves and wild boar. The research tests the hypothesis that historical developments inform the development of individual’s beliefs which in turn form the glue that binds together coalitions of cooperating stakeholders in wildlife conservation and management. To test this, data on stakeholder cooperation, beliefs, and narratives regarding historical developments were collected through in-person interviews with 21 conservation and management stakeholders. Network analysis was applied to the cooperation data, and qualitative content analysis was applied to beliefs and narratives. As predicted by the advocacy coalition framework (ACF), policy core beliefs regarding problem framings and preferred solutions to HWC were the glue that held coalitions together. Stakeholders’ historical narratives were more frequently shared between coalitions than within them, that is, they bridged separate coalitions. No evidence of a causative relationship between narratives and beliefs was found. The research demonstrates the relevance of investigating the social factors underlying conservation conflicts and HWC. The advocacy coalition framework is particularly applicable to the context of conservation conflicts by highlighting commonalities in coalitions’ understandings of problems and solutions. With the addition of network analysis, this multi- disciplinary approach was particularly suitable for 1) relating individual level perspectives to group-level dynamics; and 2) identifying bridging stakeholders, beliefs, and narratives, which can be utilised by stakeholders or future research to initiate discussion, trust, and new cooperation and promote coexistence with wolves and boar.