The costs of wildlife conservation distribute unequally across society. Compensation can potentially redress inequities and raise local tolerance for endangered wildlife that damage property. However, the rules for payments generate controversy, particularly as costs mount and species recover. In Wisconsin (USA), gray wolf damage payments grew notably over 28 years and eventually undermined budgets for conserving other endangered species. We measured attitudes to compensation among 1,364 state residents, including those who voluntarily contributed funds and those likely to receive compensation, and we interviewed elected officials about the politics of payment rules. Most respondents endorsed compensation for wolf damages to livestock-even when wolves are no longer endangered-but opposed payments for wolf damage to hunting dogs on public land. Most donors opposed killing wolves and over one-fourth unconditionally rejected a wolf hunt. We predict the latter donors would stop contributing funds for compensation if the state were to implement a proposed wolf hunt. Controversy over payment rules reveals clashing values regarding wildlife between those receiving and those paying for compensation. Moreover, the costs of compensation ratchet up as endangered species recover and claims of entitlement expand. Hence we recommend conservationists use sunset clauses and an adaptive management of compensation programs.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Nature and Landscape Conservation