Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Environmental and Energy Policy (MS)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Social Sciences

Advisor 1

Nancy Langston

Committee Member 1

Casey Huckins

Committee Member 2

Valoree Gagnon


Lake Superior’s woodland caribou have been declining since the early 1800s. This thesis asks: why? We hypothesize that as settlers expanded into the region, industrial development in woodland caribou habitat reduced woodland caribou persistence. Using an Historical Geospatial Information System (HGIS) analysis, we find that historical mining and railroad infrastructure are associated with woodland caribou extirpation, while wetlands and protected areas are associated with caribou persistence. We also conducted a stakeholder synthesis of the region to help understand diverse perspectives within and between advocacy coalitions that take different positions on the most effective caribou restoration policies. Beliefs on recovery options vary broadly. However, there are overlaps among individual beliefs that can lead to compromises on recovery policy. Policymakers should take away that while there may appear to be no easy solution to this wicked problem, there do appear to be areas of common ground on woodland caribou recovery can be found. Listening to and including diverse stakeholders is key to future recovery efforts.