Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Dustin Ranglack

Committee Members

Melissa Wuellner, Pricila Iranah, Michelle Fleig-Palmer, Letitia Reichart


American Prairie Reserve, Bison, Conflict, Conservation, Natural Resource Management, Systems Thinking


Conservation conflict, whether human-wildlife or human-human, and specifically those that include the public as stakeholders, is seen as one of the most influential reasons reintroduction and/or conservation of species or landscapes is difficult to accomplish. This is due to the numerous mental models involved within conflict. In order to help mitigate or mediate said conflict, understanding these mental models and the roles they play within the system is crucial. Unfortunately, adaptive management, which is reactionary, additive, and most often used within these systems, is unable to do so and solutions to the conflict remain elusive. The aim of this study was to utilize an analysis tool known as Systems Thinking (ST) and Systems Dynamics (SD) in order to model the human-wildlife conflict using the non-profit organization, American Prairie Reserve (APR), and their neighboring communities as a case-study. APR’s mission is to create the largest nature reserve within the continental United States by stitching together 1.3 million hectares of private and public land. In order to accomplish this goal, APR wishes to have the support from the local landowners and neighboring communities, especially since their mission includes reintroducing bison onto their deeded and leased land. Data from a public perception survey conducted by a strategic communications research firm in 2019, along with management and socio-economic data from APR was utilized to build a model that represented the system. While the model bounds were tested, historical data in which to match the model to was lacking. In order to build the necessary confidence for the model, specific data that would need to be collected was identified. I expect the model will not only highlight the mental models and their role within the conflict between APR and the neighboring communities but can serve as a template for other organizations struggling with similar conflicts.



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