by Nelson, M.P., Batavia, C., Lute, M.L., & Bruskotter, J.T.
We performed a formal content analysis on a sample of public
comments collected via email by Isle Royale National Park between September of 2012 and
April of 2014 regarding the precipitous decline in wolf abundance on the island; the
resulting threat to the wolf/moose, predator/prey system; and the possibility of
intervention. Public comments were obtained through the US Freedom of Information Act.
50% of the 930 open public comments were randomly sampled and analyzed to determine
what the interested public thought should be done, and also what ethical reasoning they
demonstrated in justifying their policy preference. Here we report on a few key findings:
1. Policy preferences of members of the interested public: 88% support or allow for
some form of intervention and 12% oppose any form of intervention.
2. The interested public’s concern for the health and naturalness of the biotic
community: 71% of those who supported some form of intervention expressed
concern for ecosystem or population health, and concern for naturalness was
expressed both by those who supported, and by those who opposed, intervention.
3. There is a paucity of explicit appeals to (a) follow scientists’ advice or (b) engage in
the least expensive alternative: 6% of the entire sample thought the park should
follow the advice of scientists and 3% thought the park should consider economic
4. The idea that the value of the science of the Isle Royale Wolf/Moose Project is
affected by intervention: Of those whose policy preferences were motivated by a
concern for the Isle Royale Wolf/Moose Project (~14% of sample), 84% asserted
the need for intervention, and 16% asserted the need for non-intervention, to
secure the continuation of the research on the island.
The report in its entirety is available here.