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Against the Odds: Creating a Community-Managed Protected Area on Disputed Land

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Tucker, Catherine
Conference: Sustaining Commons: Sustaining Our Future, the Thirteenth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of the Commons
Location: Hyderabad, India
Conf. Date: January 10-14
Date: 2011
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/7255
Sector: General & Multiple Resources
Region: Central America & Caribbean
South America
Subject(s): water resources
common pool resources
conflict resolution
Abstract: "Defining and enforcing appropriate property rights for common-pool resources presents an enduring conundrum. The problem is particularly difficult when multiple stakeholders assert rights, the resource base is threatened by incursions, and property rights are disputed. The Montaña Camapara Reserve in Honduras exists within these challenges to property rights and sustainable management. The reserve was formed in 2001 by three municipalities that share communal rights to the mountain; they have fought over their boundaries for more than a century. In 1995, one of the municipalities obtained a national land title that included most of the mountain, despite objections from its neighbors. The mountain’s springs provide water for nearly two dozen villages. Its land is coveted by coffee growers and farmers, who began clearing the mountain during the 1990s. In this context, people in surrounding villages became concerned for their water supply, and formed a grassroots movement to protect the mountain. The movement’s supporters pressured municipal authorities to create a reserve and remove landholders. Over the course of nearly a decade, about 20 farmers agreed to relocation, residents cooperated to fence the reserve, and the three municipal governments reached an accord to defend the mountain from further incursions. Recently, forest cover has been regenerating where farmers abandoned land, but the national government has not recognized the reserve and formal property rights remain in dispute. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork, satellite images, and archival research, this study explores how the watershed reserve developed collaboratively and why it has endured despite ongoing tensions. The analysis points to the importance of transparent negotiations, participation of all disputing factions, building of shared understanding, and the widespread conviction that the reserve serves the common good. Unexpectedly, the reserve’s creation occurred without state support, contradicting the dominant notion that successful, strictly protected reserves require state involvement."

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