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The dynamics of value interactions in endangered species conservation. (concepts).


Conserving endangered species is a technical task, but it is also highly value laden. Yet the value dimension of conservation is often overlooked or ignored by most participants. Values--the things and events in life that people desire, aim at, wish for, or demand--figure into all aspects of conservation, including the science component; in fact, values are the basic medium of exchange in all human interactions. Values may be functionally categorized as power, wealth, skill, enlightenment, affection, well-being, respect, and rectitude, all of which are needed for people to live with dignity in a healthy environment. A 2000 paper by Scott Johnson describing the Hawaiian crow (Corvus hawaiiensis) case is used as an example of the importance of values to endangered species recovery efforts. Participants in this recovery effort at first were unable to appreciate and manage the value-based dynamics to promote conservation, but later were able to make some improvements. Attending to value dynamics in a conscious, systematic way can enhance species conservation in all cases.


As professionals dedicated to protecting and restoring biological diversity, we focus our attention on the populations and habitats of imperiled species. Our ethical standards tell us that this work is important, and our views are justified by society through the Endangered Species Act and other mandates. We have been trained in the technical knowledge (e.g., ecology) and skills (e.g., field measurements) necessary to restore species or prevent their endangerment. Focusing strictly on the biological tasks, however, may mean the neglect of the "human dimensions" of conservation, which are often dismissed as "biopolitics" and avoided or left to others to deal with. In addition, most conservation professionals work for organizations--state or federal agencies, advocacy groups, universities, or businesses--that exhibit particular mandates, cultures, and ways of operating that affect how the organizations and their people deal with others and, as a result, how successful recovery programs are. This is well documented in the literature (e.g., Miller et al. 1996, Flores and Clark 2001).

Disciplinary biases and organizational cultures are just two of the many expressions of human values that are present not only in recovery programs but in every facet of life. People pursue values constantly. Values are the things and events in life that people desire, aim at, wish for, or demand (Lasswell 1971). According to Taylor and Douglas (1999:315), "values are cognitive representations of human needs." They "indicate preferences people share for certain types of outcomes in their lives and for certain types of conduct" (Ball-Rokeach and Loges 1992:222). In all our interactions, at all levels of society, we exchange or transfer values of one kind or another. The vast literature on values contains numerous lists of what people value, some abstract, some more conventional, some short, some long. But as Bell's (1997:179) survey of the literature shows, there are "some core human values about which there is wide agreement both over geographic space and time--from well before the birth of Christ up to the present."

We believe that it would be beneficial to those who work in endangered species recovery programs to become more aware of the value dynamics at play in their work and to develop a broader and more theoretical conception of values. This would help professionals to see similarities in the problems that plague different cases and to adapt the solutions, lessons, knowledge, and skills from successful cases to others. To that end, we examine value interactions in endangered species restoration, drawing initially on a paper by Johnson (2000) that describes the Hawaiian crow (Corvus hawaiiensis) conservation case.

An account of Hawaiian crow conservation

Scott Johnson's article, "Building a species recovery program on trust," which appeared in Conservation Biology in Practice in 2000, offered his perspective as a professional biologist and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) employee on the Hawaiian crow ('alala) case. He recounted that the USFWS had originally been denied access to the crow population, which was largely on private land, and that the agency was sued by environmental groups for failing to recover the species. He described the persistent interpersonal tension, the preconceived negative views that each group seemed to hold about the others, the name calling (he was labeled a "bureaucratic biologist"), and the suspicion that kept the various groups apart. The program was not cooperative and lacked trust.

Believing that the problem was that the public lacked "information," he and his colleagues' initial response to this messy situation was to try to solve the problems by providing as much information as possible. They expected that sharing information with ranchers and The Peregrine Fund, both central players, would make the program run smoothly. This is a common assumption among biologists, managers, and other technically oriented professionals. Their education, training, and often their entire professional lives have inculcated the belief that scientific truth is the touchstone against which all things are measured. So they are convinced that if the participants in a recovery program all shared the same knowledge, they would all come to the same understanding of the problem, its solution, and the means of achieving the solution. For agency managers this knowledge often means the population dynamics, habitat relations, and management steps necessary to meet legal mandates. For conservation advocacy organizations, which also commonly play the we-need-to-educate-the-public game, knowledge refers to population viability, factors responsible for habitat loss, and effectiveness of government in solving conservation problems. Although we do not know what knowledge Johnson and his colleagues imparted about the crow situation or how the educational program was carried out, the people who opposed the government program, according to his own account, did not take kindly to this approach or its underlying assumption. The knowledge-sharing strategy did not improve the working relations or the status of the crow.

But then, as Johnson put it, "After a couple years of pounding our heads against the wall, the group finally concluded that our basic flaw was ... a lack of trust" (p. 36). The USFWS team saw that "mutual trust must be developed by specific actions that have nothing to do with actual work being conducted" (p. 36). They concluded that trust would come about by interaction outside the 'alala arena--through social interaction not focused on crows. At the same time, Johnson admitted, recognition that they would now have to focus on "relationship-building" produced "rolled ... eyes" and cringes from team members. Realizing that they were in a dysfunctional social relationship and that facilitated meetings, conflict resolution, surveys, emails, and faxes would not fix the situation (as is often thought), Johnson and his team decided to change patterns of interaction with the ranchers and other participants. They focused on "specific actions that fundamentally changed our behavior toward each other before we even sat at the meeting table or called each other on the phone" (p. 36). They acknowledged that they did not have the knowledge or skills to bring about such changes, so they consulted someone outside the program who did. This individual convened all parties. "The sessions were simply aimed at each individual's personal development and experiences and what each brought to the group" (p. 36). As a result, the group found many shared experiences, which led to a greater "sense of community" (p. 37). Good will was built where it had been absent.

Understanding human values

One of the most universal systems of value analysis is Harold D. Lasswell's (1971) "functional value categories," which stem from his belief that human dignity is the overriding goal of all people (Lasswell and McDougal 1992). In short, everyone wants to live with dignity, which means having adequate amounts of eight categories of values--power, enlightenment, wealth, well-being, skill, affection, respect, and rectitude (Table 1)--and being able to shape (give) and share (receive and use) all eight to the fullest extent possible. This list is general enough to encompass most other "lists" of values, including those spelled out in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, other national constitutions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations, and similar conventions (see McDougal et al. 1980; Clark 2002).

In advancing his comprehensive, if not exhaustive, list of values, Lasswell recognized that the eight value categories are both diverse yet culturally specific. For example, sharing and shaping information, i.e., enlightenment, means something entirely different for a scholar in England than it does for an orphaned child living in poverty in India. We may not think that the child epitomizes "enlightenment," but he is savvy in his own way and knows about those things that are worth knowing in his life. In both cases, enlightenment is essential to their welfare. In our culture, shaking hands, nodding recognition, and tipping one's hat are all ways to express respect or deference. Although the same gestures are not universal, other societies have their own ways to convey respect in specific contexts. The same is true for all the other value categories: each exists in every kind and level of interaction, though its content and form vary from one context to another.

Thus, the eight values are functional categories that can be used to describe and understand any situation where people interact (Table 1). For example, we can accept that people in every society (and in every recovery program) want power, which is necessary to participate in decision making (Lasswell 1948). This does not mean that every person wants power with equal intensity, or that the quest for power is innate or acquired, but, clearly, people's striving for power and use of power are elements that should be assessed in any social process. The value demands vary from person to person, group to group, and from time to time in the history of any one person, group, or culture.

Values are central to endangered species conservation as they are in every other kind of human activity, whether the people involved understand this fact or not. When professionals from the USFWS meet and talk with ranchers or environmentalists, for instance, they are participating in a process of shaping and sharing values. As staff members of a lead agency in carrying out federal ESA policy, they expect to wield a certain amount of power, and they expect to be paid adequately for the work they do (wealth). Through their work they exhibit their knowledge (enlightenment) and skill, and they hope thus to earn the respect of the people they do business with and maintain friendly relations with their coworkers (affection). They believe that the work they are doing is right and justified (rectitude). They trust that their well-being will not be threatened in any way as they carry out their duties. Similarly, the values sought by the ranchers with whom the USFWS deals could be described to explain their behavior in their specific circumstances, or those of the environmentalists or any other group with an interest or stake in the issue. Some recovery programs show a deeply rooted pattern of those in a superior value position--for example, those with more power, more money, or more knowledge--treating other participants in politicized and disrespectful ways that do not offer them dignity. Needless to say, those who are the objects of this kind of behavior stop cooperating.

Typically, species become imperiled because of the unintended consequences of people's value-based activities and complex value dynamics. As we seek to satisfy our individual needs--to establish families, build communities, participate in governance, work for money and access to material goods, express our beliefs, exercise our skills and knowledge, and so on--we create institutions and carry out operations that affect the environment and other plant and animal species. In some situations these effects (some of which are deliberate whereas others are unplanned or involuntary) are minimal, but in others they are more damaging. It is people (in ever increasing numbers) seeking values that cause species endangerment. Species conservation, then, is a job for those who fully understand not only the biological dimension, but also the value dimension. Although value-based practices are largely responsible for species losses, they are also the means to turn this pressing problem around.

As Dery (1984) notes, however, people's behavior cannot be changed merely by bringing "new information" to their attention. This runs counter to the tendency among endangered species professionals to assume a technical, biological standpoint in which collecting scientific information about the species and its habitat is the most important (and sometimes the only) job they need to perform. A policy-oriented professional, on the other hand, fully appreciates the value dimension of conservation and works for better value outcomes, that is, "win-win" solutions accomplished through a process that offers dignity to everyone involved (Clark and Wallace 1999). The policy-oriented approach permits professionals not only to understand the conservation task primarily in terms of value interactions, but also to carry out systematic inquiry into those dynamics. (The value that scientists place on "systematic inquiry" is an example of how highly they rank enlightenment.) This task requires skill in interdisciplinary, "procedural rationality" for analyzing problems and evaluating potential solutions (Clark et al. 2001).

The crow story in terms of values

It will be instructive to reexamine the experience of Johnson and his team in terms of a systematic understanding of values. After two years, they realized that the key to success was not dispensing more scientific and management information, but developing "trust" among the people involved. This was an acknowledgment that, even though he and his colleagues had put the highest value on enlightenment, it was not what was needed in that situation and it did not solve the problem. Johnson failed to appreciate that while he was focusing his efforts on educating others, he was simultaneously and perhaps unconsciously shaping and sharing other values in his exchanges with ranchers, environmentalists, and others in ways that were counterproductive to his own goals. His way of confronting the problem (combined, of course, with the ways in which other people confronted the problem) produced a poorly performing program.

In fact, it is likely that the education strategy inhibited participants from sharing power, respect, and rectitude. The relationships among participants were based on power without communication or cooperation. The landowners exerted power over the government agency staff, to the detriment of the latter's desires (to meet their needs for rectitude) for crow conservation. What the landowners sought was respect, recognition of their own rectitude standards, and formally shared power. The USFWS thrusting information on them did not satisfy their value demands, and so the program was unable to advance. When a program is thus "politicized," it is transformed into a power relationship, often at the expense of other values that must be recognized and satisfied in order for the program to succeed. Thus, a well meaning USFWS crow conservation effort was likely undercut inadvertently by the very people who wanted its success.

Johnson deserves recognition for his willingness and ability to "rethink" the problem and change direction. Too many recovery programs never get to this point and persist in tinkering with technical/biological details, giving lip service to "human dimensions," or giving in to powerful anti-ESA forces. Few are able to conduct the genuine self-analysis that would lead them to reconceptualize the problems and the solutions.

It became clear to the crow recovery team that other values were at play. Johnson referred to several value categories in his article, although he did not use the terms we've introduced here. "We were wrong," he finally concluded, a statement about rectitude. He wrote about the need for more useful skills to save the crow. His team was denied access, a sign of landowners' power over crow biologists. He invoked the word trust as the key to his new solution; trust develops in the giving of respect and in the sharing of all the other values. He remarked on the ranching family and loyalty--the value of affection as shown in family, friendship, and community. His discussion of how all the participants used financial resources and sought to make a living was a reference to the wealth category. Although the value dynamics in the crow case were real and very much affected how the program unfolded, they were not visible to most participants. So the people involved were unable to understand and manage the problems they faced in a way that promoted conservation. Ignoring the full range of values in any species recovery effort can lead to mistrust, misguided professionalism, and a weak or failed program. The crow case is not unique, however. Many other case studies of endangered species conservation show little appreciation of the value dynamics involved (e.g., Clark et al. 1994; Reading and Miller 2000; Wallace 2000; Wallace in press)

As of 2000, interactions in the crow case had not always been smooth nor had the 'alala fared well, according to Johnson. The wild population now consists of only a few individuals. Captive breeding and reintroduction plans are in place. As new members joined the new interactive group, they have not fully understood the need to give and receive values in a productive way. Some people tried to re-politicize interactions, and changes in agency personnel have both helped and hurt. Trust cannot be built easily among new people at each meeting; it takes time to establish dependable patterns of mutually respectful, honest interactions. Johnson (p. 37) notes that "the key lesson is that partnerships and mutual trust cannot be taken for granted; nor can they be expected to continue as members come and go." Hopefully, recent events in this case have brought about improved cooperation and prospects for eventual crow recovery.


Although endangered species conservation is clearly about restoring imperiled species and their habitats, it is also overwhelmingly about the value "transactions" among people who have an interest or a stake in the issue. Recognizing this fact is a major step toward meeting the conservation challenge. Lasswell's concept of meeting human dignity through the adequate shaping and sharing of eight categories of values is a relatively simple, but highly useful, scheme for organizing and analyzing what would otherwise be a morass of individual and group perspectives in endangered species recovery. It provides a framework for professionals to use to seek information about each participant's demands, expectations, and strategies. "What do people want from this situation?" "What power, money, respect, skills, or information, for instance, do people have and how might they use these assets to get what they want?" Careful analysis should include comparing participants' actions against their words. If some people complain about their financial losses, yet continue to complain after they are offered compensation, then perhaps what they really seek is respect, or sharing in decision making, or perhaps recognition of the "rightness" of their point of view or a chance to exercise their skill. Understanding how all eight values--respect, skill, wealth, affection, power, rectitude, well-being, enlightenment--are shaped and shared in an endangered species program is essential to find ways to bring people together in a cooperative endeavor in which trust and dignity are available to all. Bringing USFWS personnel, ranchers, and other people with diverse value outlooks, interests, and demands-, together in a cooperative program is challenging. Leading and managing the value-rich process of species conservation remains a challenge that requires knowledge and skills far beyond technical considerations. Fortunately, we have concepts, tools, and much experience to draw upon to improve our own awareness of what is at stake value-wise and what we can do to aid the value shaping and sharing process that is endangered species conservation.
Table 1. List of values or "bases of power" for participants to use to
influence endangered species conservation outcomes. Participants in
endangered species should ask the questions listed below. The end of a
species conservation process leaves some participants better or worse
off in terms of these values (ask: Who gains and who loses from a
given conservation program in terms of the eight values?)(see Lasswell
1971; Clark 2002). These values are not ranked or ordered by
importance. Seeing and understanding that endangered species
conservation is at heart a task of bringing people's value dynamics
into harmony with one another and with the Endangered Species Act is
tantamount to overcoming a major part of the conservation challenge.

Power means to give and receive support in making decisions in specific
contexts. For example, power is needed to access goods and services
(e.g., enlightenment, well-being, wealth).

Ask: How is power given and received in interpersonal and decision
process and what are the outcomes?

Enlightenment means to give and receive information. Enlightenment is
the finding and spreading of knowledge. For example, researchers,
teachers, and professors are specialists in enlightenment.

Ask: How is information given and received? What are the outcomes?

Wealth means to give or receive opportunity to control resources, such
as money, natural resources, and other people. For example, financiers,
business leaders, and economists manage wealth.

Ask: How is wealth affected (given and received) by the process? What
are the outcomes?

Well-being means to give or receive opportunity for personal safety,
health, and comfort. Well-being is a value that expresses a sense of
bodily and mental integrity and vitality. For example, doctors, nurses,
and social workers provide well-being to people.

Ask: How is well-being, both physical and mental, affected by the
decision process?

Skill means to give or receive opportunity to develop inherent talent
into operations of all kinds, including professional, vocational, and
artistic skills. Skill is the acquisition and use of mental and
physical abilities. For example, scientific and analytic associations,
labor unions, and artistic cooperatives promote skills.

Ask: What kind of skills are used (or not) in problem orientation and
in decision process, how, and with what outcomes?

Affection means to give and receive friendship, loyalty, love, and
intimacy in interpersonal situations. Affection includes friendship and
community relations. Rectitude is the value of morality. For example,
professional, friendship, family, and community circles are

Ask: How are professional, friendship, and loyalty values used in
decision process and with what outcomes?

Respect means to give and receive recognition in a profession or
community. Respect refers to what is often called "place in
society"--it is a pattern of deference. Less experienced people defer
to more experienced people in most professional situations, for
example. For example, the Nobel Prize committee and many other types of
awards are available to recognize accomplished people, friends, and

Ask: How is respect or deference used (or not) in decision process and
what are the outcomes?

Rectitude means to give and receive appraisal about responsible or
ethical conduct. For example, ethical and religious systems exist in
all communities and may be taught in homes, classrooms, and churches.

Ask: What are the ethics at play in interpersonal relations and
embodied in decision process outcomes?


We want to thank the Northern Rockies Conservation Cooperative, Yale University, and Eckerd College for their support of our work. Denise Casey critically reviewed the manuscript.

Literature cited

Ball-Rokeach, S.J., and W.E. Loges. 1992. Value theory and research. Pp. 222-228 in E. F. Borgatta, and M. L. Borgatta, eds., Encyclopedia of Sociology Vol. 4, Macmillan, NY.

Bell, W. 1997. Foundations of future studies: Values, objectivity, and the good society. Vol. 2. Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Clark, T.W. 2002. The policy process: A practical guide for natural resource professionals. Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut.

Clark, T.W., R.P. Reading, and A.L. Clarke, eds. 1994. Endangered species recovery: Finding the lessons, improving the process. Island Press, Washington, D.C.

Clark, T.W. and R.L. Wallace. 1999. The professional in endangered species conservation: An introduction to standpoint clarification. Endangered Species UPDATE 16(1):9-13.

Clark, T.W., M. Stevenson, K. Ziegelmayer, and M. Rutherford, eds. 2001. Species and ecosystem conservation: An interdisciplinary approach. Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Bulletin Series 105.

Dery, D. 1984. Problem definition in policy analysis. University of Kansas Press, Lawrence, Kansas.

Flores, A. and T.W. Clark. 2001. Finding common ground in biological conservation: Beyond the anthropocentric vs. biocentric controversy. Pp. 241-252 in T.W. Clark, M. Stevenson, K. Ziegelmayer, and M. Rutherford, eds., Species and ecosystem conservation: An interdisciplinary approach. Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Bulletin Series 105.

Johnson, S. 2000. Building a species recovery program on trust. Conservation Biology in Practice 1(1):35-37.

Lasswell, H.D. 1948. Power and personality. Viking, New York.

Lasswell, H.D. 1971. Pre-view of the policy sciences. American Elsevier, New York.

Lasswell, H.D. and M.S. McDougal. 1992. Jurisprudence for a free society: Studies in law, science and politics. 2 vols. New Haven Press, New Haven, CT.

McDougal, M.S., H.D. Lasswell, and L. Chen. 1980. Human rights and world public order: Basic policies of an international law of human dignity. Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut.

Miller, B.J., R.P. Reading, and S.C. Forrest. 1996. Prairie night: Black-footed ferrets and the recovery of endangered species. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.

Reading, R.P. and B.J. Miller, eds. 2000. Endangered animals. Greenwood Press, Westport, Connecticut.

Taylor, J.G. and A.J. Douglas. 1999. Diversifying natural resources value measurements: The Trinity River Study. Society and Natural Resources 12:315-336.

Wallace, R.L. 2000. Marine mammal recovery: The human dimensions. Ph.D. dissertation. Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, New Haven, Connecticut.

Wallace, R.L. In press. Social influences on conservation: Lessons from U.S. recovery programs for marine mammals. Conservation Biology.
Tim W. Clark
Yale University School of Forestry and q Studies, 301 Prospect Street,
New Haven, CT 06511,
Northern Rockies Conservation Cooperative, Box 2705, Jackson, WY 83001

Richard L. Wallace
Environmental Studies Program, Ursinus College, P.O. Box 1000,
Collegeville, PA 19426
COPYRIGHT 2002 University of Michigan, School of Natural Resources
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2002 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Clark, Tim W.; Wallace, Richard L.
Publication:Endangered Species Update
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2002
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