Perceived inclusivity and trust in protected area management decisions among stakeholders in Alaska.
The success of conservation initiatives often depends on the inclusion of diverse stakeholder interests in the decision-making process. Yet, there is a paucity of empirical knowledge concerning the factors that explain why stakeholders do-or do not- believe that they are meaningfully represented by government agencies. Our study provides insight into the relationship between trust and stakeholder perceptions of inclusivity in public land management decisions. Here, we focus on the U.S. state of Alaska, where almost two-thirds of the land area are managed by the federal government. We used structural equation modelling to test whether an individual's trust and the information sources used to learn about land management positively influenced perceived inclusivity. We conceptualized trust in terms of four dimensions that reflected an individual's disposition to trust, trust in the federal government, trust in shared values and trust that agencies adhere to a moral code. We found that survey respondents across the U.S. state of Alaska had a limited disposition to trust others, did not trust federal land management agencies, did not believe agencies shared their values pertaining to protected area management and did not believe that agencies adhered to a moral code. Beliefs about the morality of agencies were the primary driver of perceived inclusivity in land management decisions, indicating that agencies should focus on solving problems through deliberation and discussion about moral principles rather than by force. Information acquired from professional, community-based or environmental advocacy exchanges also positively influenced perceived levels of involvement among stakeholders in resource management decisions. These results provide a roadmap for how land management agencies can improve public relations and work towards a model of inclusive conservation around protected areas.