Wolf Politics

Through this simulation students will experience the policymaking and implementation process firsthand. “Wolf Politics” is intended for use in a public policy- or environmental policy-oriented course. This experience will reinforce the concepts students have learned in their courses, allowing them to apply theoretical knowledge to a real policy issue. The process of preparing testimony for a U.S. Senate subcommittee also gives students a glimpse of how a Senate hearing may operate. In particular, the simulation should equip students with a better understanding of key aspects of the policy process, such as the political nature of the policy process, the power and role of storytelling (policy narratives), political maneuvering, the reality of conflicting values and priorities, the limited availability of time, expertise, and information to those making policy choices, the importance of stakeholders and public opinion, and the value of lobbying. In order to ensure students gain a better understanding of the above-mentioned points, and any other aspects of the public policy process you deem essential and cover in your course, a debriefing period is included as part of this simulation.

Though the case and issue is real-world and fact based, the simulation scenario utilizes a fictional policy decision moment. Namely, creating a situation where the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Environment and Public Works, specifically a small, select subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, and Water will be holding a hearing on the issue of wolf reintroduction in the Southwest. Your students, each assigned to represent a specific stakeholder organization or group, will be trying to impact this subcommittee’s recommendation(s) through oral and written testimony on the topic.

Due to the format and nature of this simulation, the authors suggest it may be best executed in a Tuesday/Thursday course rather than in the shorter times slots allotted to Monday/Wednesday/Friday courses. However, the authors have offered scheduling directions for both circumstances, and the simulation can easily be adapted to three-hour block courses. It has been successfully implemented (with revisions) for more than a decade at two quite different educational institutions, and works well with either graduate or undergraduate students.