Overcoming Policy Stalemate: The Cultural Dimensions of Environmental Conflict in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

EPA Grant Number: FP917455
Title: Overcoming Policy Stalemate: The Cultural Dimensions of Environmental Conflict in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
Investigators: Farrell, Justin Paul
Institution: University of Notre Dame
EPA Project Officer: Zambrana, Jose
Project Period: August 1, 2012 through July 31, 2015
Project Amount: $126,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2012) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Sociology


This research will address the question, “How does cultural conflict impede environmental policy efforts?”


This project takes a multi-method approach, drawing on quantitative and qualitative methodology. The first stage of the research focuses on compiling and analyzing U.S. census data (1920-2010) to provide a longitudinal overview of important socioeconomic trends in the region. Second, the project will field a regional survey, conduct inperson interviews with policy stakeholders and conduct participant observation at policy events. Lastly, the project will link stage one and stage two findings to create a comprehensive picture of the social sources of intractable conflict in the GYE.

Expected Results:

By charting the cultural dimensions of environmental conflict in the GYE, this project benefits society and the natural environment in several ways. First, an important part of building a collaborative framework involves restoring trust between private landowners and local (and national) environmental groups. The broken trust is rooted in misunderstandings and miscommunications that stem from different ways of culturally constructing environmental problems and their solutions. Renewal of trust between these notoriously conflicting groups will lead to improvements in wildlife policy—particularly with regard to preserving and expanding vital wildlife migration corridors. In addition to these practical results, this project will foster interdisciplinary collaboration between natural and social scientists, curtail litigation costs in the area and improve the local public’s knowledge about the social factors involved in environmental decision making. Lastly, because of the historical and contemporary significance of Yellowstone National Park, the findings from this research will provide a model for scholars and practitioners in other contexts—both national and international—where similar environmental policy stalemates are taking place.

Potential to Further Environmental/Human Health Protection

The natural environment suffers greatly in cases of policy stalemate. This project will improve environmental protection by identifying the cultural causes of conflict that hinder environmental collaboration. After identifying these root causes, the project will create a plan to alleviate conflict between the individuals and institutions involved in protecting human and ecological health in the GYE.

Supplemental Keywords:

environmental sociology, policy, Yellowstone National Park

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2013
  • 2014
  • Final