Policy Sciences

, Volume 45, Issue 4, pp 315–343 | Cite as

The discourses of incidents: cougars on Mt. Elden and in Sabino Canyon, Arizona

  • David J. Mattson
  • Susan G. Clark


Incidents are relatively short periods of intensified discourse that arise from public responses to symbolically important actions by public officials, and an important part of the conflict that increasingly surrounds state wildlife management in the West. In an effort to better understand incidents as a facet of this conflict, we analyzed the discourses of two incidents in Arizona that were precipitated by the intended removal of cougars by managers in response to public safety concerns. We used newspaper content, 1999–2007, to elucidate seminal patterns of public discourses and discourse coalitions as well as differences in discursive focus between incident periods and background periods. Cougars were mentioned in newspaper articles 13–33 times more often during incidents compared with background periods. State wildlife agency commissioners and hunters were part of a discourse coalition that advocated killing cougars to solve problems, blamed cougars and those who promoted the animals’ intrinsic value and sought to retain power to define and solve cougar-related problems. Personnel from affected state and federal agencies expressed a similar discourse. Environmentalists, animal protection activists, and some elected officials were of a coalition that defined “the problem” primarily in terms of people’s behaviors, including behaviors associated with current institutional arrangements. This discourse advocated decentralizing power over cougar management. The discourses reflected different preferences for the allocations of power and use of lethal versus non-lethal methods, which aligned with apparent core beliefs and participants’ enfranchisement or disenfranchisement by current state-level management power arrangements.


Focusing event Wildlife management Coalition Power Decision process 



We thank R. Thompson (formerly of the Arizona Game and Fish Department), S. Nichols-Young, D. Casey, and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful and clarifying reviews. We also thank M. Sogge (US Geological Survey) and K. Kitchell (formerly of the US Geological Survey) for their support of this work. Any use of trade, product, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the US Government.


  1. Agresti, A. (2002). Categorical data analysis (2nd ed.). New York: Wiley.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alicke, M. D. (2000). Culpable control and the psychology of blame. Psychological Bulletin, 126, 556–574.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Arizona Game and Fish Department. (2004a). Report of the Mountain Lion Workshop, May 1, 2004, Tucson, Arizona. Final Report. Phoenix: Arizona Game and Fish Department.Google Scholar
  4. Arizona Game and Fish Department. (2004b). Report of the Flagstaff and Phoenix Mountain Lion Workshops. Phoenix: Arizona Game and Fish Department.Google Scholar
  5. Arizona Game and Fish Department. (2005). Action Plan for Minimizing and Responding to Lion/Human Interactions. Phoenix: Arizona Game and Fish Department.Google Scholar
  6. Baron, D. (2004). The beast in the garden: A modern parable of man and nature. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  7. Baumgartner, F., & Jones, B. D. (1993). Agenda and instability in American politics. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  8. Birkland, T. A. (1998). Focusing events, mobilization, and agenda setting. Journal of Public Policy, 18, 53–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Birkland, T. A. (2006). Lessons of disaster: Policy change after catastrophic events. Washington, D.C.: George Washington University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Calinski, R. B., & Harabasz, J. (1974). A dendrite method for cluster analysis. Communications in Statistics, 3, 1–27.Google Scholar
  11. Campbell, J. M., & Mackay, K. J. (2003). Attitudinal and normative influences on support for hunting as a wildlife management strategy. Human Dimensions of Wildlife, 8, 181–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Clark, S. G. (2002). The policy process: A practical guide for natural resources professionals. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Clark, T. W., & Munno, L. (2005). Mountain lion management: Resolving public conflict. In T. W. Clark, M. B. Rutherford, & D. Casey (Eds.), Coexisting with large carnivores: Lessons from Greater Yellowstone (pp. 71–98). Washington, D.C.: Island Press.Google Scholar
  14. Clark, T. W., & Rutherford, M. B. (2005). The institutional system of wildlife management: Making it more effective. In T. W. Clark, M. B. Rutherford, & D. Casey (Eds.), Coexisting with large carnivores: Lessons from Greater Yellowstone (pp. 211–253). Washington, D.C.: Island Press.Google Scholar
  15. Cromley, C. M. (2000). The killing of grizzly bear 209: Identifying norms for grizzly bear management. In T. W. Clark, A. R. Willard, & C. M. Cromley (Eds.), Foundations of natural resources policy and management (pp. 173–220). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Davis, C. (2006). Western wildfires: A policy change perspective. Review of Policy Research, 23, 115–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Decker, D. J., Kruger, C. C., Baer, R. A., Jr, Knuth, B. A., & Richmond, M. E. (1996). From clients to stakeholders: A philosophical shift for fish and wildlife management. Human Dimensions of Wildlife, 1, 70–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dery, D. (1984). Problem definition in policy analysis. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press.Google Scholar
  19. Dizard, J. E. (2003). Mortal stakes: Hunters and hunting in contemporary America. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.Google Scholar
  20. Dryzek, J. S. (1997). The politics of the earth: Environmental discourses. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Edwards, B., & McCarthy, J. D. (2004). Resources and social movement mobilization. In D. A. Snow, S. A. Soule, & H. Kriesi (Eds.), The Blackwell companion to social movements (pp. 116–152). Malden, MA: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  22. Ewert, A. W. (1993). The wildland-urban interface: Introduction and overview. Journal of Leisure Research, 25, 1–5.Google Scholar
  23. Fischer, F. (2003). Reframing public policy: Discursive politics and deliberative practices. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Foucault, M. (1972). Archeology of knowledge. New York, NY: Pantheon Books.Google Scholar
  25. Gill, R. B. (1996). The wildlife professional subculture: The case of the crazy aunt. Human Dimensions of Wildlife, 1, 60–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hagood, S. (1997). State wildlife management: The pervasive influence of hunters, hunting, culture and money. Washington, D.C.: The Humane Society of the United States.Google Scholar
  27. Hajer, M. A. (1995). The politics of environmental discourse: Ecological modernization and the policy process. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Harker, D., & Bates, D. C. (2007). The black bear hunt in New Jersey: A constructionist analysis of an intractable conflict. Society and Animals, 15, 329–352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Herman, D. (2009). Basic elements of narrative. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Heydlauff, A. L., Krausman, P. R., Shaw, W. W., & Marsh, S. E. (2006). Perceptions regarding elk in northern Arizona. Wildlife Society Bulletin, 34, 27–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hoffman, C. (2004). Welcome to the neighborhood. Adventure, October, 86–96.Google Scholar
  32. Howland, D., Larsen Becker, M., & Prelli, L. J. (2006). Merging content analysis and the policy sciences: A system to discern policy-specific trends from news media reports. Policy Sciences, 39, 205–231.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Hsieh, H.-F., & Shannon, S. E. (2005). Three approaches to qualitative content analysis. Qualitative Health Research, 15, 1277–1288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Iyengar, S. (1991). Is anyone responsible? How television frames political issues. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  35. Jacobson, C. A., & Decker, D. J. (2006). Ensuring the future of state wildlife management: Understanding challenges for institutional change. Wildlife Society Bulletin, 34, 531–536.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Jacobson, S. K., Langin, C., Carlton, J. S., & Lee Kaid, L. (2012). Content analysis of newspaper coverage of the Florida panther. Conservation Biology, 26, 171–179.Google Scholar
  37. Jones, B. D. (1994). Reconceiving decision-making in democratic politics: Attention, choice, and public policy. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  38. Kellert, S. R. (1996). The value of life: Biological diversity and human society. Washington, D.C.: Island Press.Google Scholar
  39. Kingdon, J. W. (1984). Agendas, alternatives, and public policies. Boston, MA: Little Brown.Google Scholar
  40. Klecka, W. R. (1980). Discriminant analysis. Sage University Paper series on Quantitative Applications in the Social Sciences, 19. Beverley Hills, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  41. Koltko-Rivera, M. E. (2004). The psychology of worldviews. Review of General Psychology, 8, 3–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Koval, M. H., & Mertig, A. G. (2004). Attitudes of the Michigan public and wildlife agency personnel toward lethal wildlife management. Wildlife Society Bulletin, 32, 232–243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Lange, J. I. (1993). The logic of competing information campaigns: Conflict over old growth and spotted owl. Communications Monographs, 60, 239–257.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Lasswell, H. D. (1950). Politics: Who gets what, when, how. New York: P. Smith.Google Scholar
  45. Lasswell, H. D. (1971). A pre-view of the policy sciences. New York: American Elsevier.Google Scholar
  46. Lasswell, H. D., & Holmberg, A. R. (1992). Toward a general theory of directed value accumulation and institutional development. In H. D. Lasswell & M. S. McDougal (Eds.), Jurisprudence for a free society: Studies in law, science and policy. (Vol. II, pp. 1379–1417). The Hague, Netherlands: Kluwer Law International.Google Scholar
  47. Lasswell, H. D., & Kaplan, A. (1950). Power and society: A framework for political inquiry. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  48. Lasswell, H. D., & McDougal, M. S. (1992). Jurisprudence for a free society: Studies in law, science and policy. The Hague: Kluwer Law International.Google Scholar
  49. Lasswell, H. D., et al. (1966). Language of politics: Studies in quantitative semiotics. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  50. Levy, S. (2005). Can cougars and people live side by side? National Wildlife, 43, 14–15.Google Scholar
  51. Manfredo, M. J., Teel, T. L., & Bright, A. D. (2003). Why are public values toward wildlife changing? Human Dimensions of Wildlife, 8, 287–306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Manfredo, M. J., Teel, T. L., & Henry, K. L. (2009). Linking society and environment: A multilevel model of shifting wildlife value orientations in the western United States. Social Science Quarterly, 90, 407–427.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Mangus, G. (1991). Legal aspects of encounters on federal lands and in state programs. In C. S. Braun (Ed.), Mountain lion-human interaction symposium and workshop (pp. 43–44). Denver: Colorado Division of Wildlife.Google Scholar
  54. Mattson, D. J., & Chambers, N. (2009). Human-provided waters for desert wildlife: What is the problem? Policy Sciences, 42, 113–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Mattson, D. J., & Clark, S. G. (2010a). People, politics, and cougar management. In M. Hornocker & S. Negri (Eds.), Cougar: Ecology and conservation (pp. 206–220). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  56. Mattson, D. J., & Clark, S. G. (2010b). Groups participating in cougar management. In M. Hornocker & S. Negri (Eds.), Cougar: Ecology and conservation (pp. 254–259). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  57. Mattson, D. J., & Ruther, E. J. (2012). An explanation of reported puma-related behaviors and behavioral intentions among northern Arizona residents. Human Dimensions of Widlife, 17, 91–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Mattson, D. J., Byrd, K. L., Rutherford, M. B., Brown, S. R., & Clark, T. W. (2006). Finding common ground in large carnivore conservation: Mapping contending perspectives. Environmental Science & Policy, 9, 392–405.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. McBeth, M. K., Shanahan, E. A., & Jones, M. D. (2005). The science of storytelling: Measuring policy beliefs in Greater Yellowstone. Society & Natural Resources, 18, 413–429.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. McBeth, M. K., Shanahan, E. A., Arnell, R. J., & Hathaway, P. L. (2007). The intersection of narrative policy analysis and policy change theory. The Policy Studies Journal, 35, 87–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. McBeth, M. K., Shanahan, E. A., Hathaway, P. L., Tigert, L. E., & Sampson, L. J. (2010). Buffalo tales: Interest group policy stories in Greater Yellowstone. Policy Sciences, 43, 391–409.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Mills, S. (2004). Discourse. New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
  63. Mintrom, M., & Norman, P. (2009). Policy entrepreneurship and policy change. The Policy Studies Journal, 37, 649–667.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Moore, M. P. (1993). Constructing irreconcilable conflict: The function of synecdoche in the spotted owl controversy. Communication Monographs, 60, 258–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Mortenson, K. G., & Krannich, R. S. (2001). Wildlife managers and public involvement: Letting the crazy aunt out. Human Dimensions of Wildlife, 6, 277–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Muth, R. M., Hamilton, D. A., Organ, J. F., Witter, D. J., Mather, M. E., & Daigle, J. J. (1998). The future of wildlife and fisheries policy and management: Assessing the attitudes and values of wildlife and fisheries professionals. Transactions of the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference, 63, 604–627.Google Scholar
  67. Nie, M. (2004a). State wildlife policy and management: The scope and bias of political conflict. Public Administration Review, 64, 221–233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Nie, M. (2004b). State wildlife governance and carnivore conservation. In N. Fascione, A. Delach, & A. E. Smith (Eds.), People and predators: From conflict to coexistence (pp. 197–218). Washingon, D. C.: Island Press.Google Scholar
  69. Papouchis, C. M. (2004). Conserving mountain lions in a changing landscape. In N. Fascione, A. Delach, & A. E. Smith (Eds.), People and predators: From conflict to coexistence (pp. 219–239). Washingon, D. C.: Island Press.Google Scholar
  70. Parker, V. (1995). Natural resources management by litigation. In R. L. Knight & S. F. Bates (Eds.), A new century for natural resources management (pp. 209–220). Washington D.C.: Island Press.Google Scholar
  71. Patterson, M. E., Montag, J. M., & Williams, D. R. (2003). The urbanization of wildlife management: Social science, conflict, and decision making. Urban Forestry and Urban Greening, 1, 171–183.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Perry, G. L., & DeVos, J. C., Jr. (2005). A case study of mountain lion-human interaction in southeastern Arizona. Mountain Lion Workshop, 8, 104–113.Google Scholar
  73. Phillips, N., & Hardy, C. (2002). Discourse analysis: Investigating processes of social construction. Qualitative Research Methods, 50. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  74. Pielke, R. A., Jr. (2007). The honest broker: Making sense of science in policy and politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Rao, C. R. (1973). Linear statistical inference. New York: Wiley.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Reiger, J. F. (2001). American sportsmen and the origins of conservation. Corvallis: Oregon State University Press.Google Scholar
  77. Reisman, W. M. (1988). International incidents: Introduction to a new genre in the study of international law. In W. M. Reisman & A. R. Willard (Eds.), International incidents: The law that counts in international politics (pp. 3–23). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  78. Reisman, W. M., & Willard, A. R. (Eds.). (1988). International incidents: The law that counts in international politics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  79. Rochefort, D. A., & Cobb, R. W. (1993). Problem definition, agenda access, and policy choice. Policy Studies Journal, 21, 56–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Rutberg, A. T. (2001). Why agencies should not advocate hunting or trapping. Human Dimensions of Wildlife, 6, 33–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Sabatier, P. A. (1988). An advocacy coalition framework of policy change and the role of policy-oriented learning therein. Policy Sciences, 21, 129–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Schattschneider, E. E. (1960). The semisovereign people: A realist’s view of democracy in America. New York, NY: Holt, Rineholt, & Winston.Google Scholar
  83. Scheufele, D. A. (1999). Framing as a theory of media effects. Journal of Communication, 49, 103–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Schlechtweg, H. P. (1996). Media frames and environmental discourse: The case of “focus: logjam”. In J. G. Cantrill & C. L. Oravec (Eds.), The symbolic earth: Discourse and our creation of the environment (pp. 257–277). University Press of Kentucky: Lexington.Google Scholar
  85. Shanahan, E. A., McBeth, M. K., Hathaway, P. L., & Arnell, R. J. (2008). Conduit or contributor? The role of media in policy change theory. Policy Sciences, 41, 115–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Shaver, K. G. (1985). The attribution of blame: Causality, responsibility, and blameworthiness. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  87. Siemer, W. F., Decker, D. J., & Shanahan, J. (2007). Media frames for black bear management stories during issue emergence in New York. Human Dimensions of Wildlife, 12, 89–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Stone, D. A. (1989). Causal stories and the formation of policy agendas. Political Science Quarterly, 104, 281–300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Stone, D. (2002). Policy paradox: The art of political decision making (Revised ed.). New York, NY: W. W. Norton.Google Scholar
  90. Teel, T. L., Dayer, A. A., Manfredo, M. J., & Bright, A. D. (2005). Regional results from the research project entitled “Wildlife values in the West.” Project Report for the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. Fort Collins: Human Dimensions in Natural Resources Unit, Colorado State University.Google Scholar
  91. Tischer, S., Meyer, M., Wodak, R., & Vetter, E. (2000). Methods of text and discourse analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  92. Urbinati, N. (2006). Representative democracy: Principles and geneology. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  93. van Dijk, T. A. (1988). News analysis: Case studies of international and national news in the press. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  94. Ward, J. H. (1963). Hierarchical grouping to optimize an objective function. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 58, 236–244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Weber, M. (1978). Economy and society. Volume two. In G. Roth & C. Wittich (Eds.) Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  96. Williams, B. A., & Matheny, A. R. (1995). Democracy, dialogue, and environmental disputes: The contested languages of social regulation. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  97. Witter, D. J., & Shaw, W. W. (1979). Beliefs of birders, hunters, and wildlife professionals about wildlife management. Transactions of the North American Wildlife Conference, 44, 298–305.Google Scholar
  98. Wolch, J. R., Gullo, A., & Lassiter, U. (1997). Changing attitudes toward California’s cougars. Society and Animals, 5, 95–116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  99. Wondolleck, J. M., & Yaffee, S. L. (2000). Making collaboration work: Lessons from innovation in natural resources management. Washington, D.C.: Island Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. (outside the USA) 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.U.S. Geological Survey, Southwest Biological Science CenterFlagstaffUSA
  2. 2.School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Institution for Social and Policy StudiesYale UniversityNew HavenUSA

Personalised recommendations