Un-common Goods in Forest Commons Management: The Case of Polewood Commodification in Mayan Forests of Quintana Roo, Mexico

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"For millennia, the Maya of the southeastern Mexico have depended on the health of their forest resources both for cultural identity and economic well-being. Traditional and institutional forms of forest commons management in this area have been credited as a major factor in maintaining forest health, but the recent and precipitous commercialization of small diameter tropical trees (5-35 cm dbh) as polewood have had considerable social and ecological implications on the future of forest management. I combine concepts from common property theory with data from structured interviews conducted randomly in twelve forest communities in central Quintana Roo, and semistructured interviews with forest government officials and regional forestry technicians in order to explore the relationship between the future of forest management and a dwindling forest resource base. Although government officials have responded to the commercialization of polewood by creating minor modifications to existing forest policy, polewood has proven difficult to manage as a common good based on its small size and its relative difficulty for enforcement, leading to widespread exploitation and decreasing populations of polewood species and diminishing availability for local use. This trend represents a growing incongruence among existing forest policies, current market conditions, and local users' needs and realities. Points of both conflict and consensus between local communities and government officials suggest that the sustainability of polewood exploitation from forest areas depends strongly on strengthening the capacity for local adaptation of forest management framework to emerging markets of forest goods that are difficult to manage communally. Certain recommendations for increasing ability for adaptive management include increasing access to market information, carefully defining and enforcing boundaries for polewood extraction, and exploring the potential for reforestation of threatened species."
community forestry, forests, Maya (Native American people), adaptive systems, resource management, IASC