Ryan Bergstrom* - Kansas State University
Lisa MB Harrington, PhD - Kansas State University
The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is a large, nearly intact ecosystem, with significant protection that has often been considered an ideal location to examine coupled and complex human-environment interactions. A transition toward sustainability suggests that current societal needs can be met while simultaneously maintaining the planet's life support systems for future generations. To facilitate objectives toward a sustainability transition within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem it is imperative that the perceptions and experiences of local communities be documented, as well as the perceived challenges to achieving such a transition.
This is particularly true where communities are dependent on the natural environment for economic vitality and quality of life, as is the case in Greater Yellowstone. Not only will greater understanding of community perceptions and experiences better inform our understanding of human-environment relations, but they may also help promote realistic and effective decision-making. The objective of this study was to determine how amenity-driven gateway communities surrounding Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks perceive and experience their transition toward sustainability, and the challenges inherent in that transition. Further, this study will determine which factors (drivers) contribute to these perceptions, and whether they differ spatially and temporally. Thirty-five key informant interviews were conducted with decision makers within the region to meet study objectives. Findings suggest that perceptions, experiences, and challenges toward a sustainability transition differ between study communities based on socioeconomic characteristics, values, and behaviors of individuals and communities, as well as the institutions and agencies that facilitate or hinder such a transition.