Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Washington
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Washington Project

Assessing Perceptions of Risk and Uncertainty during Adaptive Management: A Case Study of the Washington State Forest Practices Habitat Conservation Plan

June 2022 - June 2023


Participating Agencies

  • WDFW

The adaptive management program (AMP) of the Washington Forest Practices HCP (FPHCP) is perhaps the largest nonfederal adaptive management program in the United States. Its successes and failures during its 20-year term can inform both local policy in Washington state as well as broader discussions about science-driven environmental management. This project will strive to understand how AMP participants, composed of scientists and policy makers (hereafter program participants), perceive the AMP; how the AMP addresses key scientific uncertainties, risks, goals, and performance targets identified by the AMP; the role of science in reducing uncertainty and resolving policy issues; and the ways these issues affect policy discussions among the participants. Using social science methods, including but not limited to semi-structured interviews and Q-methodological approaches, this project’s objectives are to better understand latent perspectives, conflicts, and shared values that can help improve our understanding of the AMP as well as adaptive management programs more broadly. The project will involve close collaboration between the Washington Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, WDFW cooperators spearheading other aspects of the broader research program, and a postdoctoral researcher hired to achieve the objectives outlined below.

Work with the University of Washington (Dr. Alex McInturff, Assistant Unit Leader – Wildlife at the Washington Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit) is composed of five tasks. The collective goal of these tasks is to understand how program participant groups perceive the AMP’s scope, purpose, outcomes, and how these perceptions can affect policy decisions. The tasks described in more detail below include: i) Characterizing the program-participant groups’ satisfaction with ultimate policy outcomes based on new knowledge, i.e., were outcomes rationale, fair, transparent, decisive, true to Forests and Fish goals, and reasons for perceptions of these outcomes, ii) An exploration of hypotheses that could explain why program participants were unable to agree on rule change and dissatisfied with certain policy outcomes, and iii) How the AMP process could be improved to build common understanding and avoid future dissatisfaction. Ultimately, this research should improve the AMP, it will also serve as a major case study for understanding how participant perceptions influence environmental policy outcomes.