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Planning and decision-making in the fish and wildlife branch : a study of steelhead fishermen's characteristics, preferences, opinions and attitudes Alker, Kevin Godfrey

Abstract

Planning is concerned with understanding and relating both the physical and social aspects of an environment and arriving at alternatives which best satisfy the public for whom the resource is being managed. To plan so that maximum benefits are derived it is important to weigh benefits and costs to determine the feasability of an alternative. However, public recreation is an area which operates outside the market mechanism and therefore methods using other than monetary measures must be developed to determine how maximum public benefits can be achieved. The literature provides little help in overcoming this problem. The few studies undertaken on characteristics, preferences and attitudes of recreationists have not been carried out in the context of decision-making and therefore many of the findings of these studies are inapplicable in planning. This study suggests a methodology which could be used by the Fish and Wildlife Branch to enable more effective development of alternatives for planning of the steelhead sport fishery resource. A questionnaire was developed to enable assessment of the user public's characteristics, preferences, opinions and attitudes. By this method the public's desires can be taken into account in the generation of alternatives thereby approaching the goal of maximizing public benefits. For the purpose of the study steelhead fishermen of the Lower Mainland of British Columbia were sampled. As the Fish and Wildlife Branch now assesses fishermen's views by ad hoc meetings with fishermen from organized clubs the sample of fishermen taken for this study were from two discernable groups; the organized and the unorganized fishermen. The questionnaire was distributed to 117 organized and 378 unorganized fishermen. By this method it was possible to test if organized fishermen (about 5% of all steelhead fishermen) were representative of all steel headers. From the organized sample 61 questionnaires were returned while 164 were included in the data analysis from the unorganized fishermen. The questionnaire was distributed to 7 managers of the Lower Mainland steelhead fishery. The results obtained from this group, it was hoped, could be compared with those of the two fishermen groups. However, results from this sector have not been deeply analysed because of the small number in the sample and the difference in influence that the various members of this group could bring to bear on decisions. Using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (S.P.S.S.) and crosstab format the fishermen were compared on their responses to the questionnaire. From analysis of these data a number of conclusions were forthcoming: - Organized and unorganized fishermen were found to be different. - There is a wide range of fishing experience desired. - A systematic collection of information on resource users is feasible and desirable. These conclusions have implications for the planning of this resource. By establishing that organized and unorganized fishermen are different it is clear that the collection of information on the desires of both groups of fishermen is needed. The Branch already collects information on catch and release statistics by questionnaire and this vehicle could be extended to gather fishermen's opinions, attitudes and desires. The wide range of experiences desired by the fishermen suggests that a range of alternatives must be provided in order to increase user benefits. The Fish and Wildlife Branch then must not look for single solutions in planning for the resource but adopt a flexible approach. The geographical diversity of the resource offers the Branch many opportunities for experimenting with programs which would deliver to different groups of fishermen the various types of experiences they desire. These general conclusions are applicable to other agencies charged with providing outdoor recreation services in a non-market context. These agencies currently devote most of their energies to managing the physical resource independent of any systematic feedback from the public. The practice of questionnaire analysis as a method of determining user preferences for planning alternatives has become commonplace in the urban areas of planning. In recreation and resource planning, there is a large potential for involving the public in a systematic manner to establish a better basis for developing alternatives which will increase users satisfaction.

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