Social-ecological systems of sheep ranching, recreation, and large carnivores on multiple-use U.S. public lands
The multiple use policy on over 441 million acres of public lands mandates “the management of the public lands and their various resource values so that they are utilized in the combination that will best meet the present and future needs of the American people.” Most contentious among these uses has been the debate surrounding the 257 million acres of public lands used for ranching in the American West. Conflicts over rangeland access and management have recently been heightened by the reintroduction and recovery of large carnivores and the rise of recreational use. Spatial and temporal partitioning have been shown to minimize conflicts but the geospatial information that could model, predict, and allow the geographically specific management of conflict in a multiple-use system is a lacuna in the literature. This knowledge gap, and the causes and solutions of conflict, can best be understood in the broader context of their social dimensions. I use the social-ecological systems framework (SESF) to create a contextualized causal map of flows between sheep ranching, large carnivore conservation, and recreation on public lands in an Inter-mountain West community. Using data from sheep fitted with GPS trackers to quantitatively support ethnographic information, I spatialize the SES with a partial suitability model for sheep grazing. This is a step toward a geographical tool that combines models of carnivore occupancy and recreational use to predict and prevent conflict between multiple uses. In combination with an understanding of the SES, this tool can increase adaptive capacity in resource management by enabling quantitative, spatially explicit social and ecological cost-benefit analyses at appropriate scales.