Understanding users is fundamental to the management of our natural resources. Much of the Socioeconomic Research and Monitoring Program for the FKNMS has been focused on information and analysis to answer certain questions such as socioeconomic profiles of the various user groups (who are the users?), activity profiles (what do they do and how does this use connect to natural resources/the environment?), economic contribution to local economy (how do the livelihoods of people connect to uses of the natural resources/environment?), economic value (what is the net economic value received by users from the natural resources/environment?
This information is used in cost-benefit analyses of public and private investments in resource protection and restoration efforts), and importance-satisfaction ratings on natural resources, facilities and service (what is important to people and what is their perceptions of conditions as expressed by satisfaction scores?). The importance-satisfaction scores do provide important information on conditions natural resources, facilities and services that management can influence through strategies and regulations.
In addition to the above, it is important to management to have assessments of what users know about resource conditions, management strategies and regulations being used or being proposed to address these conditions, how people get their information about resource conditions and what management is doing about it, and how useful they find various sources of information (knowledge). Also, it is important to get people attitudes on processes management uses to develop management strategies and regulations, attitudes on performance or outcomes of management strategies and regulations, and attitudes on general support for management (attitudes). And, finally people’s behaviors are also influenced by their perceptions. Who people think are the beneficiaries of particular management strategies and regulations may influence acceptance and compliance. What people perceive about the condition of the natural resources is important. Often people’s perceptions don’t agree with actual facts. When this is the case, it is an education/outreach issue. If conditions are in decline and people’s perceptions are that the resource conditions are in decline, the outcome is likely to be changes in behavior and negative economic consequences, this a call for management action.
The Socioeconomic Research and Monitoring Program for the FKNMS is undertaking research on people’s knowledge, attitudes and perceptions of conditions of natural resources, facilities and services through importance-satisfaction ratings for residents and visitors, which are being replicated (monitored) every five years. Knowledge, Attitudes and Perceptions of Management Strategies and Regulations are monitored on a decadal basis (every 10 years). The first effort was limited to three key user groups (commercial fishers, dive operators and members of local environmental groups). A recent study was just completed with a 10-year comparison and new baselines for future monitoring. Baseline estimates are also being developed for all residents of Monroe County/Florida Keys and all visitors in the 2007-08 study of recreation-tourism. Again, it is expected that this will be replicated in approximately 10 years. Results from the 2007-2008 study will be available in early to mid 2009.