Masters Thesis

Using Q methodology to examine socioecological dimensions of conflict in the Trinity Alps Wilderness, California

For over a century, salmonids have been stocked in historically fishless, montane lakes for the sole purpose of creating recreational fishing opportunities. Salmonid introductions have had transformative impacts on historically fishless systems where native biological communities had previously been isolated and evolved without the presence of fish. While certain communities consider fishing for stocked trout a traditional and important use of wilderness, others are concerned with the impacts of introduced salmonids on the region’s biological integrity. As management shifts from continued stocking practices toward a focus on ecological restoration, communities with differing ecological values and priorities must compromise on management of high-elevation ecosystems by utilizing a socioecological approach. This research addresses the need for human dimensions research to understand social conflict among stakeholder communities. The recreation-biodiversity conflict surrounding the revaluation of high-elevation stocking programs has arisen in part due to diverging valuations of wilderness, a lack of substantial educational outreach, and a lack of mutual trust between stakeholders. This research uses Q methodology, a qualiquantilogical method, to examine stakeholder opinions on fish stocking and the use of fish removals as ecosystem restoration. Through an inverted factor analysis, Q method has clustered participants by perspective into four factors—1) Pro-Restoration, 2) Collaborators, 3) Legacy, and 4) Extreme Pro-Restoration. Q method facilitates discovery of collective agreement, while also revealing key differences among perspectives, which are integral to delineating conflict and developing solutions for environmental concerns. This research is a call-to-action for stakeholders to develop mutual trust through transparent communication and inclusive engagement.