Roles for Wildlife in the Development of Place Meanings Ascribed to a Protected Area

Evan L. Salcido, Carena J. van Riper, William P. Stewart, Benjamin A. Leitschuh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Wildlife play prominent roles in popular images of America’s outdoor landscapes, yet our understanding of their contribution to place meanings is not fully developed. Although environmental management agencies have a long history of stewarding wildlife for hunting and fishing, they have been less inclined to prioritize non-consumptive uses such as the contribution of wildlife to sense of place. Given that agencies are increasingly challenged to implement policies that align with citizen priorities, connecting wildlife to sense of place could lead to more effective decisions. Our research explored the plurality of connections that residents made with wildlife in multiple protected areas across the USA region of Interior Alaska. Residents of nine communities were engaged over a five-year period, followed by a thematic analysis of interview data, which resulted in the identification of seven place meaning themes. These themes reflected qualities of the local environment that were appreciated by residents, including: 1) desirable travel destination, 2) distinct sense of community, 3) landscape of subsistence and tradition, 4) landscape of wildlife habitat, 5) natural resources in need of harvesting, 6) rural Alaskan lifestyle, and 7) wildland areas tied to recreation. Native wildlife species–from traditionally charismatic species like moose (Alces alces) to less iconic species such as snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus) – were discussed in the context of all seven place meaning themes. Wildlife provided a basis for study participants to interpret landscapes and ascribe meanings to places, thus supporting our argument that shared influences of wildlife and place meanings should be prioritized in environmental planning and management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1072-1085
Number of pages14
JournalEnvironmental Management
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2023


  • Alaska
  • Place meanings
  • Protected areas
  • Social science
  • Wildlife

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology


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