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Reconciling Social and Biological Needs in an Endangered Ecosystem: the Palouse as a Model for Bioregional Planning

Shannon M Donovan, University of Idaho
Chris Looney, University of Idaho
Thor Hanson, University of Idaho
Yaniria Sánchez de León, University of Idaho
J. D. Wulfhorst, University of Idaho
Sanford D Eigenbrode, University of Idaho
Michael Jennings, The Nature Conservancy
Jodi Johnson-Maynard, University of Idaho
Nilsa A Bosque Pérez, University of Idaho

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Abstract

The Palouse region of southeastern Washington State and an adjacent portion of northern Idaho is a working landscape dominated by agricultural production, with less than 1% of the original bunchgrass prairie remaining. Government agencies and conservation groups have begun efforts to conserve Palouse prairie remnants, but they lack critical information about attitudes and perceptions among local landowners toward biological conservation. Knowledge about the location and condition of native biological communities also remains sparse. Using a bioregional approach, we integrated data collected through biological surveys and social interviews to investigate relationships between biologically and socially meaningful aspects of the landscape. We combined GIS layers of participant-identified meaningful places with maps of native biological communities to identify the overlap between these data sets. We used these maps and interview narratives to interpret how stakeholder perceptions of the landscape corresponded with patterns of native biodiversity. We found several prominent landscape features on the Palouse that supported diverse biological communities and were important to stakeholders for multiple reasons. These places may be expedient focal points for conservation efforts. However, the many small prairie remnants on the Palouse, although ecologically important, were mostly unidentified by participants in this study and thus warrant a different conservation approach. These findings will assist government agencies and conservation groups in crafting conservation strategies that consider stakeholder perceptions and their connection with the Palouse landscape. This study also demonstrates how GIS tools can link biological and social data sets to aid conservation efforts on private land.

Key words

landscape; participatory research; spatial mapping; biodiversity; conservation; private lands
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087