- Investigates the causes of economic imbalances.
- Explores and develops market-based solutions.
Defenders of Wildlife (Defenders) hosted a stakeholder meeting to develop a red wolf-based ecotourism plan for communities located in rural northeastern North Carolina. The one-day meeting focused on formulating strategies to initiate the next steps the local community must take to make ecotourism a viable means of economic development.
On May 10, 2006, Defenders hosted a stakeholder meeting located at the Eastern 4-H Environmental Education Conference Center in Columbia, North Carolina and facilitated by Dr. Joseph Flood of East Carolina University. The concept for this meeting was directly identified in Red Wolves: Creating Economic Opportunity Through Ecotourism in Rural North Carolina, a 2005 report commissioned by Defenders of Wildlife and funded by the Alex C. Walker Educational and Charitable Foundation. The meeting gathered regional eastern North Carolina community leaders and local landowners to explore the development of market-based approaches to generating community benefits from red wolves. Four presentations offered at the meeting summarized (1) ecotourism and strategic planning, (2) findings from the 2005 red wolf ecotourism report, (3) a local landowner’s perspective about the red wolf recovery program and (4) successful ecotourism marketing practices. Following the presentations, participants separated into working groups to focus on a specific topic or area of expertise. A discussion regarding the red wolf education center, which would house live wolves and host events that provide education to visitors about wolves and other species native to the area, confirmed community support for its construction, with participants exchanging conceptual ideas about the vision for the center.
Participants discussed (1) marketing strategies for small businesses, such as developing a Web site; (2) the best methods for generating economic benefits, such as organizing a farmer’s market; (3) educational outreach regarding red wolf conservation, including the building of a red wolf education center; and (4) creative incentives to keep tourist revenue in the communities and position the town of Columbia as a red wolf ecotourism destination by building accommodations for large tour groups and creating package tours that encourage visitors to spend more time and money in the area.
Interest from the community in advancing profitable ecotourism ventures is evident; therefore, it is critical as ecotourism plans develop that the process involves the active and committed participation of rural residents and of local and regional tourism planners, thereby ensuring the conservation and integrity of the surrounding areas. Discussion generated at the meeting will guide the community to develop a strategic plan to promote the implementation of market-based incentives that will benefit the local economy and the conservation of the endangered red wolf.
Further, participants concluded that if red wolves are to serve as an economic engine for the local economy, a red wolf education center needs to be developed on a sound ecotourism plan. The essential next step requires individuals from the community to step forward as leaders, ensuring that community decision makers are in control of steering their regional ecotourism efforts.
The stakeholder meeting provided an opportunity to identify the framework that will best demonstrate to the community-measurable private economic benefits that can be achieved while furthering endangered species protection. The stakeholders clearly have the resources to develop ecotourism opportunities within the community, and this forum provided an opportunity for them to identify barriers that are hindering the cohesive development of these activities. Local involvement in ecotourism development is important in ensuring the protection of green space and wildlife, as well as low impact methods of building and growth.
Following the meeting, Defenders and East Carolina University produced a report summarizing dialogue at the meeting and introducing a set of recommendations for stakeholders to use to advance aspects of ecotourism planning within the community.
The meeting helped the Tyrrell County Ecotourism Committee recognize that a lack of communication between the committee and the community was preventing a cohesive approach to ecotourism development. Since the stakeholder meeting took place, the community already has established a local farmer’s market, just one of the ecotourism ventures recommended for development at the meeting. In addition, The Tyrrell County Tourism Authority sponsored a Community Stakeholder Meeting on September 7, 2006, to build on the momentum of this initial meeting. The Tourism Authority has pledged funds to cover the meeting costs for 50 participants, who were selected by the Tourism Authority to represent a broad array of community interests and stakeholders.
Community needs identified by participants at the September meeting will provide Defenders with information for continuing our support for red wolf-based ecotourism development within this region. Defenders anticipates that community members will want to move ahead with one or more of the following approaches to further the implementation of market-based incentives for red wolf conservation:
• Establishment of program for landowners to receive financial incentives for red wolves located on their land;
• Research on the benefits to landowners of red wolf predation on nutria, an invasive species that plagues many landowners in the region;
• Sponsorship of tourism training workshops; and
• Support to increase outreach and education about red wolves and other native fauna and flora.
The project investigates the causes of economic imbalances and exploring and developing market–based solutions by building upon earlier private market based incentives research for rural development in the eastern portion of North Carolina reported in the study by Gail Y. Lash and Pamela Black in Red wolves: creating economic opportunity through ecotourism in rural North Carolina and the project “North Carolina Red Wolf Recovery: Promoting Economic Opportunity through Ecosystem Education and Ecotourism,” which supported the creation of materials providing critical information for stimulating ecotourism in the same area. The Stakeholder meeting helped reach the purposes of the foundation in two important ways. First, the stakeholder meeting better defined the local human economy and constraints to alleviating the economic imbalances the region currently suffers (wealthy coastal regions versus inland farming). The stakeholders at the meeting thoroughly discussed what those imbalances were. They also initiated the development of a red-wolf centered eco-agro-tourism activity strategy that is meant to address this imbalance and provide more economic opportunity in rural areas.
Secondly, the stakeholder meeting addressed the development of ecotourism as a market-based solution for (a) increasing the incomes of rural landowners and communities who provide essential habitat for red wolves to continue to exist in the region, and (b) as a means for valuing the natural environment that provides this habitat. With respect to the environmental valuation, the discussion centered on determining what types of fiscal incentive mechanisms (market receipts, tax deductions, public infrastructure development) could more efficiently compensate private landowners for the provision of public wildlife goods.
The red wolf projects serve as a national model for correcting economic imbalances and improving income distribution mechanisms by creating market benefits from endangered species protection through ecotourism. In 2000, a United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit decision identified the national economic benefits generated by the red wolf recovery program. In the case Gibbs et al v. Babbitt et al, the plaintiffs challenged regulations preventing the taking of red wolves on private land. The court upheld the federal regulations because the presence of red wolves produced significant economic benefits generated from tourism and scientific research, resulting in substantial positive impacts on interstate commerce and rural communities.
Although this region is unique because it is the only area in the entire world containing red wolves in the wild, this project does provide an excellent, replicable model to highlight the benefits of endangered species and the methods to market them while promoting their protection. As human tolerance is key to the success of recovery programs, it is important to relate the benefits endangered species provide to the general public. While the general public learns about the costs of administering an endangered species recovery program, the economic, social and environmental benefits of protecting an endangered species are rarely calculated. Within these northeastern North Carolina communities, participants have been overwhelmingly receptive to learning about the different types of red wolf-related economic benefits and supportive of implementing measures to obtain them.
The components used for the red wolf-based ecotourism projects, including 1) the feasibility assessment of tourist needs and community capabilities, 2) outreach and education, and 3) community and stakeholder involvement, will be transferable to future endeavors seeking to identify the economic benefits of endangered species protection. The overwhelming success of the Stakeholder Meeting on Red Wolf-Based Ecotourism can be measured by the community’s immediate action to both implement ecotourism activities identified at the meeting, as well as their request to seek funding from the Tourism Authority and plan an additional stakeholder meeting.
Copies of the report were distributed to meeting participants and other key members of the community that were unable to attend the meeting. The report and a summary of the meeting will be posted on Defenders’ Web site at:
and our Biodiversity Partners Web site at:
In addition, Defenders staff has developed a presentation about the red wolf-based ecotourism projects. On August 3, 2006, we offered a presentation to the Red Wolf Species Survival Team at their annual meeting in South Salem, New York. In addition, Defenders’ staff offered a presentation about our red wolf-based ecotourism program at the National Extension Tourism Conference in Burlington, Vermont on September 11, 2006. The presentation also will be offered at Defenders’ biennial conference, Carnivores Conference 2006: Habitats, Challenges and Opportunities, taking place from November 12-15, 2006, in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Project Link http://www.defenders.org/wildlife/wolf/redwolf/benefits.html
(Check sent: 3/24/2006)