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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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ARTICLE
Year : 2020  |  Volume : 18  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 13-24

Evaluating the Conservation Attitudes, Awareness and Knowledge of Residents towards Vieques National Wildlife Refuge, Puerto Rico


1 Department of Earth and Environment, Florida International University, Miami, FL, USA
2 Southeast Environmental Research Center, Florida International University, Miami, FL, USA

Correspondence Address:
Joel T Heinen
Department of Earth and Environment, Florida International University, Miami, FL
USA
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/cs.cs_19_46

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Numerous studies have shown that conflicts between local people and Protected Areas (PA) can undermine conservation goals. This study explores attitudes towards Vieques National Wildlife Refuge (VNWR), Puerto Rico, USA, a former military site with a controversial political history, high ecological values and a toxic legacy including unexploded ordnances as a results of the area's former use as a naval bombing range. Our objective is to evaluate how residents perceive VNWR and to elucidate conflicts associated with former and current uses of the area through semi-structured and key informant interviews. Socio-economic factors and misconceptions about management were among the variables influencing attitudes about the refuge. Overall, many residents did not express particularly strong attitudes, but there were many significant differences among demographic groups. Older and less educated individuals, and those living longer on Vieques Island, had poorer attitudes about the refuge and its management while younger, more educated, short-term residents, and those employed in the tourism sector, had more positive attitudes. The most common reasons for expressing discontent were restrictions on access and rules limiting resource extraction. Some negative concerns were false impressions of current restrictions (i.e. many resources can be legally removed from VNWR), while some others were issues not under the control of the Fish and Wildlife Service (i.e. fishing rules are set by the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico). The results suggest that much more public outreach and education are urgently needed. We recommend that VNWR expand public uses where feasible and better-publicise formal regulations and the reasons for them.


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