Escaping Social Trap Theory: A Case Study on Elk Feed Grounds and the Practicality of Collaboration.
thesisposted on 2020-05-13, 00:00 authored by Tayler Heintz
Concerns over the supplemental feeding of elk and the spread of disease have become increasingly more prevalent within the last couple of years in Wyoming. With a longstanding history of supplemental feeding of elk on twenty-two elk feeding grounds in the state, various interest groups have come to rely on elk feeding grounds to maintain large populations of elk and to protect a way of life individuals have become accustomed to. These organizations and interest groups have now found themselves in a social trap. They have chosen short-term elk management solutions that provide short-term benefits, albeit over the past one hundred years, and simultaneously created a threat to the species for the future. The purpose of this research is to demonstrate social trap theory in the context of the elk feeding ground issue. An in-depth discussion of social trap theory, collaborative learning processes, relevant stakeholder groups, and individual issues surrounding the elk feeding grounds show how supplemental elk feeding fits the definition of a social trap. Furthermore, this research posits that collaborative decision-making processes may not resolve certain social traps, including the elk feeding grounds, and proposes solutions when collaboration fails.