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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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Year : 2007  |  Volume : 5  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 361-381

Explaining Community-Level Forest Outcomes: Salience, Scarcity and Rules in Eastern Guatemala

1 Department of Political Science, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0521, USA
2 California Department of Public Health, Sacramento, CA 95899-7420, USA
3 National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration, Silver Springs, MD 20910, USA

Correspondence Address:
Clark C Gibson
Department of Political Science, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0521
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

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The residents of the settlement of Moran, located along the border of Guatemala's Sierra de las Minas Biosphere Reserve, have lived in the area for over a century. Despite a lack of community-level rules about protecting their communal forest, limited amounts of arable land, and a high human fer­tility rate, Moron's forest does not appear over-exploited. This study seeks to explain this outcome given the residents' pattern of forest use and the relative lack of restrictive forest-conservation rules. We first argue that individuals do not create highly restrictive management rules unless two conditions hold: individuals must depend significantly on the resource and they must perceive its scarcity. One of these necessary conditions does not hold in Moran: while community members make use of forest products in their daily lives, they do not consider the forest products on which they depend to be scarce. We also provide evidence about the lack of forest rules by looking at its structure: the pattern of use indicates an optimal foraging strategy. We test these arguments using qualitative and quantitative data from the community and its forests.

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