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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 : 4  |  Page : 504-533

Friends with Money: Private Support for a National Park in the US Virgin Islands

Department of Anthropology and School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan, Department of Anthropology, 101 West Hall, 1085 S, University Ave. Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA

Correspondence Address:
Crystal Fortwangler
University of Michigan, Department of Anthropology, 101 West Hall, 1085 S. University Ave. Ann Arbor, MI 48109
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

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With the decline of state-sponsored funding for protected areas, private support has become increasingly important, and, in some places, pre­dominant. This article explores and analyses the implications of private sup­port for the Virgin Islands National Park in St. John, US Virgin Islands. Specifically, it focuses on the emergence of an organisation called Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park. This organisation's support has become es­sential to the management of the park, which consistently experiences signifi­cant shortfalls in federal funding. While this support has been beneficial to the park, it has exacerbated the long-standing tensions between park man­agement and local people, which have existed since the park was established with support from Laurence S. Rockefeller in 1956. At issue are the ways in which the Friends Group raises money, the park programmes it funds, the in­terpretation of historic sites, synergistic relationships between the group and certain island residents, and the group's political capital in national arenas. The paper highlights the inequitable structural relationships in which local people find themselves and their values disregarded. By way of conclusion, the article addresses the more general implications of these dynamics for pri­vate support of protected areas, particularly how private support can disen­franchise those outside of philanthropic partnerships.

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