Nature preserves and community conflict: A case study in highland Ecuador

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Studies of protected areas and their local communities are often framed in terms of "top-down" versus "bottom-up" development strategies. Such Studies frequently emphasize the importance of grassroots involvement and organization on the part of local communities. Externally-driven, "top-down" models have been criticized as insensitive to local resource needs. This paper examines local participation in ecological preserve management in northern highland Ecuador and the limitations of development models as applied to the planning and management of protected areas. Local residents, preserve managers, and government officials were interviewed, and census and archival research was conducted both in Ecuador and the U.S.A. In one preserve, locally-based, grassroots management has led to community fractionalization and conflict regarding use of the protected area. At a second preserve, the "top-down" approach has resulted in a protected area which, while efficiently managed, is functionally isolated from its surrounding communities. It is argued here that an overemphasis on conventional grassroots and "top-down" development and management models is unsatisfactory. Managers of protected areas should look to the linkages between these approaches and attempt to build partnerships between large-and small-scale organizations and objectives.


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Conflict, Natural resource management, Community participation, Nature preserves,community conflict, Top-down management, Bottom-up management, Ecosystem Farm/Enterprise Scale Governance


Mountain Research and Development 16(2): 167-175