Human dimensions of natural resources refers to the social attitudes, processes and behaviors related to how we maintain, protect, enhance and use our natural resources.
Today's natural resource managers recognize that natural resource management involves more than ecological processes. Social processes and consequences also must be considered.
Human dimensions is broadly defined as the application of social science theory and methods to help understand the cultural, sociological, psychological, economic, biological and physical aspects of natural resource management and environmental problem-solving.
DNR regularly surveys stakeholders to learn about their opinions on a multitude of issues. In all cases, DNR strives for scientifically valid results that are obtained through random surveys of stakeholders.
This human dimensions work answers larger questions about wildlife and its management. DNR's management decisions are influenced by analysis and review of this data.
Collecting public input on specific issues is an important part of the DNR's decision-making process. While gathering and analyzing public input can provide useful information, the results are not statistically valid.
Surveys usually are broader in scope, rather than focused on a single project or decision. Surveys also are distributed to a statistically representative and randomized group of stakeholders, rather than offered as a process in which anyone can participate.
By using a statistically valid survey design, information collected can closely reflect actual attitudes of a surveyed population. Public input processes – while not representative of the greater population – do provide any interested party an opportunity to participate in discussions about resource management. Such engagement processes often provide greater opportunities for conversation and shared learning about resource issues.
Although they must be interpreted differently, both surveys and public input processes provide useful context when making decisions about natural resource management.
DNR is a partner with the University of Minnesota, the Minnesota Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit within the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Wildlife Management Institute. Most of the research is in collaboration with the co-op unit and emphasizes the impacts of human activities on aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems that are of state, regional and national significance. The research program addresses not only the biological but also social and economic aspects of both game and non-game fisheries and wildlife management in the context of maintenance of biological diversity and integrity and sustainability of ecosystems.