Determinants of Public Support for Threatened and Endangered Species Management: A Case Study of Cape Lookout National Seashore


  • Lena Le Washington State University
  • Kenneth J. Bagstad US. Geological Survey
  • Philip S. Cook University of Idaho
  • Kirsten M. Leong National Park Service
  • Eva DiDonato National Park Service



Communication, park management, threatened and endangered species


Gaining public support for management actions is important to the success of public land management agencies' efforts to protect threatened and endangered species. This is especially relevant at national parks, where managers balance two aspects of their conservation mission: to protect resources and to provide for public enjoyment. This study examined variables potentially associated with support for management actions at Cape Lookout National Seashore, a unit of the National Park Service. Two visitor surveys were conducted at the park at different seasons, and a resident survey was conducted for households in Carteret County, North Carolina, where the park is located. The goal of the project was to provide park managers with information that may help with the development of communication strategies concerning the park's conservation mission. These communication strategies may help to facilitate mutual understanding and garner public support for management actions. Several variables were examined as potential determinants that park managers ought to consider when developing communication strategies. Multinomial logistic regression was applied to examine the relationships between these variables and the likelihood of support for or opposition to management actions. The variables examined included perceived shared values of park resources, general environmental attitudes, level of familiarity with park resources and regulations, knowledge about threatened and endangered species, level of trust in the decision-making process, and perceived shared values with park management. In addition, demographic variables such as income level, respondent age, residency status, and visitor type were also used. The results show that perceived values of threatened and endangered species, trust in park managers and the decision-making process, and perceived share values with park managers were among the strongest indicators of support for management actions. Different user groups also exhibited different levels of support, with groups engaged in specialized recreation activities (fishers) being the most likely to oppose management actions. While our findings are not surprising, they corroborate past research that has shown an effective communications strategy should be customized to target different audiences. In addition, management should focus on developing long-term relationships that build trust in and foster credibility of decision-making processes.

Author Biographies

Lena Le, Washington State University

DirectorSocial and Economic Sciences Research Center

Kenneth J. Bagstad, US. Geological Survey

Research EconomistGeosciences & Enciornmental Change Science Center

Philip S. Cook, University of Idaho

Research Scientist, Policy Analysis Group

Kirsten M. Leong, National Park Service

Program ManagerHuman Dimensions of Biological Resource Management

Eva DiDonato, National Park Service

Branch ChiefOcean and Coastal Resources Branch, Water Resource Division


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