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Socio-ecological drivers of public conservation voting: restoring gray wolves to Colorado, USA

Citation

Ditmer, Mark; Niemiec, Rebecca; Wittemyer, George; Crooks, Kevin (2021), Socio-ecological drivers of public conservation voting: restoring gray wolves to Colorado, USA, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.xpnvx0kh4

Abstract

Understanding factors that influence real-world public conservation behaviors is critical for developing successful conservation policies and management actions. Citizens of Colorado, USA recently passed a ballot initiative to restore the gray wolf to its former range within the state. The >3 million votes offer an unprecedented opportunity to test factors that influenced decisions to support or oppose this conservation action. We created spatial linear regression models to assess the relationship between support for wolf restoration and 1) the presidential vote, 2) distance to conservation intervention (i.e., proposed wolf reintroduction and existing wolves), and measures of 3) livelihood and 4) demographics using precinct-level data. Our results demonstrate the strong relationship between support for wolf restoration and political support for the Democratic candidate for president in the 2020 election, and highlights how other factors, including increased age, participation in elk hunting, and proximity to the reintroduction region were associated with less support. Our findings underscore the critical role of politicization on public conservation action and the need to develop outreach and engagement strategies to mitigate polarization.