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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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SPECIAL ISSUES
Year : 2007  |  Volume : 5  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 450-477

We Thought We Wanted a Reserve: One Community's Disillusionment with Government Conservation Management


Departamento de Ecologia Humana, Centro de Investigacion y de Estudios Avanzados del Instituto Tecnologico Nacional, Km. 6 Antigua Carretera a Progreso, Colonia Cordemex, Merida, Yucatan C.P. 97310, Mexico

Correspondence Address:
Betty B Faust
Departamento de Ecologia Humana, Centro de Investigacion y de Estudios Avanzados del Instituto Tecnologico Nacional, Km. 6 Antigua Carretera a Progreso, Colonia Cordemex, Merida, Yucatan C.P. 97310
Mexico
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


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A protected area near Cancun was the first in Mexico initiated by local communities. In 1994, three communities placed their lands in the fed­eral category of an Area for the Protection of Flora and Fauna. Ethnographic research in one of the communities (2003-2004), documented local percep­tions that the director of the protected area was not allowing local residents to participate in decision making concerning the major tourist attraction, a nesting colony of seabirds. Previously, an advisory council ceased to function, and a local conservation organisation of young people was disbanded. The latter had built observation facilities, provided services to nature tourists and protected the colony. The director was perceived as undermining this organi­sation and refusing to heed community requests for reforestation of the nest­ing habitats. Cumulative damage to vegetation from hurricanes eventually resulted in the complete disappearance of these birds (2005-2006). This cre­ated a decline in small-scale tourism, reduction of local livelihoods, and in­creased pressure on the reserve's director to allow the community to sell its commons, including beach frontage. If the community sells its lands, the buy­ers officially will be obligated to operate within the regulations of the pro­tected area. The regulations allow 'eco-development', gated housing projects that include 2-5 acres of land per house. These homes are for the very wealthy, for vacations or retirement. Eco-hotels are also being built to serve an international elite. All of these developments exclude the previous resi­dents.


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