Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Resource Conservation

Department or School/College

College of Forestry and Conservation

Committee Chair

Michael E. Patterson

Commitee Members

Laurie Yung, Martin Nie, David Naugle


conflict, frames, narratives, natural resource conflict, sage-grouse


University of Montana


The tense conflict over sage grouse management in the West, where livelihoods have been pitted against the possibility of an endangered species listing, has been ongoing for many years and has been described as being as tense as the spotted owl conflict in the Northwest in the 1990s. This research is designed to highlight the different frames or narratives within the sage grouse debate in Sublette County, Wyoming while exploring a resurging research methodology. Q methodology, a method intended to identify distinct viewpoints within a sample was employed to understand the different narratives among these conflict parties. The Q method suggested three distinct viewpoints or knowledge communities existed within the sample: ultra locals, classic biologists and harmonizers. Ultra locals largely consisted of ranchers (75%) and others dependent on the land for their livelihood and showed a strong preference for local county management that included local information. The narratives of the classic biologists, a group consisting solely of biologists working for agencies, consulting firms and conservation organizations, preferred that science and research point the way to a solution. Finally, agency biologists and energy industry employees made up the final group identified, the harmonizers. This group favored working with all stakeholders to work together to build a solution. A number of areas of agreement including the lack of support for an ESA listing, and disagreement such as the role of predators on sage grouse populations were highlighted. To move forward on the conflict, this research suggests that instead of pursuing issues that may only serve to increase the conflict, such as issues of predators or sources of knowledge, a path forward may be found in merging the livelihood interests of ranchers with the preservation interests of biologists. Results also show that the Q method was helpful in pinpointing distinct viewpoints on sage grouse management in Sublette County; however, without the use of an in-depth interview, the Q method results may have been difficult to clearly and meaningfully interpret.



© Copyright 2010 Maureen A. Essen