Human perceptions of competing interests in springs ecosystem management on public land in southwestern United States

Andrew J. Lewis, Stefanie Kunze, Julie M. Mueller, Ryan A. Fitch, Abraham E. Springer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Spring ecosystems provide vital services to humans and wildlife in northern Arizona. Management of springs presents unique challenges due to the diversity of stakeholders and the multiple uses of springs. We employ two methods of data collection to understand the perceptions of springs ecosystem management: interviews and focus groups with stakeholders of springs in Coconino National Forest (CNF) and Kaibab National Forest (KNF) and a national survey aimed towards public perceptions. We analyze the human perceptions of springs to understand variations between stakeholders and how perceptions of stakeholders and the public vary. Our results indicate differences between human perceptions and current management practices. The main competing interests of springs management are cattle grazing, recreation, and Indigenous Nations' cultural significance. The survey respondents, representative of public perceptions, indicate springs management for Indigenous Nations' cultural significance is important. We see positive correlation between concern for threats to springs from grazing and management to prioritize cultural significance indicating respondents prefer springs to be managed for cultural significance. Cattle grazing and other high impact human uses are viewed less favorably than other management scenarios. Stakeholders' perceptions varied and non-Indigenous stakeholders suggested management should be based on multiple uses and management focused on specific attributes of springs valuable to humans. Our results of the survey respondents’ perceptions for management of Indigenous culture and some support from stakeholders show a joint management concept might be beneficial for springs management in the CNF and KNF. Using the information we collected on the perceptions of spring ecosystems management, we discuss mechanisms for springs management to increase the ability for springs to provide cultural significance values to Indigenous Nations by potentially limiting high impact and degrading uses of springs. We provide results and examples of how all stakeholders can have the ability to benefit from the resources springs provide.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100966
JournalGroundwater for Sustainable Development
StatePublished - Aug 2023


  • Cultural significance
  • Human perceptions
  • Springs ecosystems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Water Science and Technology


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