Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

College of Forestry and Conservation

Committee Chair

Wayne Freimund

Commitee Members

Perry Brown, Mike Patterson, Doug Dalenberg, Karen Adams


conservation, environmental philosophy, legitimacy, protected areas


University of Montana


Around the globe, protected area managers confront an increasingly complex web of interests and demands, expressed by a variety parties, that often compete or conflict. When an action concerning the governance and management of a protected area is infused with such complexity, decision-making requires an evaluation of that action's legitimacy. Most often, this evaluation is implicitly made rather than expressly articulated. The purpose of this dissertation was both to illustrate the importance and utility of explicitly evaluating legitimacy and to provide a conceptual framework for understanding how the legitimacy of protected area governance and management may be understood. To better understand the concept of legitimacy, I conducted a case-study of subsistence-based resource use in Kruger National Park, South Africa. The collection of firewood, medicinal plants, thatching grass, and meat by local residents living outside Kruger has long been a contentious issue. Since the Park's establishment in 1926, resource use among local residents has been almost entirely prohibited. With South Africa's democratization in 1994, though, Kruger became a park-in-transition. In the interest of equity and benefit provision, the current management regime is exploring the possibility of providing local residents some level of access to resources in the Park. Despite these interests, providing such access to resources is by no means considered a universally legitimate action. As part of the case study, I conducted in-depth qualitative interviews with local residents, Kruger staff, and Kruger visitors, as well as a survey of Kruger visitors. Analysis revealed both common and varying conceptualizations of the legitimacy of resource use in Kruger among local residents. Procedurally speaking, all three groups largely believed that a consultative (rather than a co-management) approach to deciding how and what resources might be utilized would be the most legitimate approach. Substantively speaking, resource use was legitimated and illegitimated on a variety of dimensions including the morality, pragmatism, conventionality, and rationality of resource use. This study demonstrated that legitimacy is a multi-dimensional concept that, if explicitly evaluated, provides considerable insight into the governance and management of protected areas and may reveal previously unforeseen resolutions to complex issues.



© Copyright 2007 Randy Tanner