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International Journal of Biodiversity Science, Ecosystem Services & Management, 2015 Vol. 11, No. 2, 168–183, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/21513732.2015.1036924 The ‘hollow-middle’: why positive community perceptions do not translate into pro-conservation behaviour in El Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve, Mexico Wendy Hill*, Jason Byrne and Catherine Pickering Griffith School of Environment and Environmental Futures Research Institute, Griffith University, Building G24, Gold Coast Campus, Parklands Drive, Southport Qld 4222, Australia (Submitted 29 July 2014; accepted 30 March 2015; edited by Berta Martín-López) Participation of local communities in conservation is essential for long-term sustainability of biosphere reserves. Yet, questions remain about conditions under which participation is successful. Positive perceptions about a protected area, which may be associated with economic benefits or improved social capital, can promote pro-conservation behaviour, yet relationships are unclear. To assess this, we investigated perception–behaviour relationships in El Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve, Mexico – a socially and ecologically diverse desert region. Unsustainable and illegal resource use in the reserve has placed ecosystems under pressure. A survey of 367 people in seven rural communities and informal interviews with stakeholders suggested there was strong support for reserve designation among respondents. While conservation was recognized as a primary purpose for designation, respondents perceived the reserve was threatened by illegal and unsustainable activities. Concomitantly, respondents desired effective regulatory management and socio-economic devel- opment. Positive perceptions did not translate into pro-conservation behaviour. Respondents were largely unaware of, and had rarely participated in, conservation initiatives. Reasons appear to be related to the limited capacity of government agencies and resource management institutions. The latter require continual external support to develop stronger leadership, management skills and more equitable governance, required to bring local actors into conservation. Keywords: community-based conservation; participation; perceptions; biosphere reserve; collective management; attitudes 1. Introduction human disturbance (Terborgh 2000), were met with resis- tance and hostility. This has resulted in behaviours such as Protected areas are the cornerstones of global efforts to non-compliance with regulations (Wells & Brandon 1993), conserve biodiversity. Yet, their effectiveness is threatened illegal harvesting, hunting or poaching, and minimal sup- by human population growth and resource use (Chape port for conservation (Barkin 2003). Ultimately, such et al. 2008; Butchart et al. 2012). It has been suggested activities have undermined the effectiveness of many pro- that a new model for land conservation is needed as tected areas in meeting conservation objectives (Brandon protected areas have largely failed to achieve their objec- et al. 1998). An alternative model, known as ‘community- tives (Terborgh 2000; Mora & Sale 2011). Part of the based conservation’, seeks to protect larger areas by inte- problem, which is detailed within a well-established litera- grating environmental protection with poverty reduction. ture, is that many local communities are alienated from The model is based on equitable access to resources and protected areas (Pezzoli 2000; West et al. 2006). social inclusion (Campbell & Vainio-Mattila 2003; Commentators have argued for the need to improve com- Agrawal & Redford 2006). munity participation in decision-making and to bolster the Variations of community-based conservation are found economic and social benefits that communities receive in the Integrated Conservation and Development Projects, from protected areas (Thomas-Slayter & Rocheleau popular from the 1980s. In these projects, external con- 1995; Brechin et al. 2002; Adams et al. 2004). However, servation organizations offered economic incentives to research suggests that many such efforts have failed rural communities living adjacent to protected areas in (Kellert et al. 2000; Kiss 2004). One reason for this may exchange for their support for conservation (Newmark & be that local people’s perceptions have seldom been fac- Hough 2000). More recently, UNESCO’s model for ‘bio- tored into decision-making. sphere reserves’ addresses the need to balance conserva- Previous approaches to biodiversity conservation in tion of biological and cultural diversity with equitable protected areas, based on a top-down ‘protectionist’ socio-economic development, using a system of zones. model, have profoundly alienated local communities that Core areas for protection of key species and habitats are depend on protected area resources for their livelihoods separated from buffer zones, where traditional and alter- (Neumann 1992; Ghimire & Pimbert 1997; West et al. native resource uses are permitted (UNESCO 2008). 2006). In many cases, protectionist policies, based on the Community-based conservation initiatives, including concept that ecosystems function best when isolated from *Corresponding author. Email: email@example.com © 2015 Taylor & Francis International Journal of Biodiversity Science, Ecosystem Services & Management 169 agriculture, bio-prospecting, ecotourism and extractive by reducing negative behaviours, such as illegal or unsus- harvesting, have been implemented in biosphere reserves, tainable resource use. They can also increase positive and other International Union for Conservation of Nature behaviour such as participation in wildlife protection pro- category VI protected areas. This has been based on the grammes. However, the relationships between people’s assumption that financial benefits and improved social perceptions and their behaviours are complex, with social, capital will engender positive perceptions about protected cultural and psychological dimensions (Waylen et al. areas, leading to greater uptake of pro-conservation beha- 2009). Perceptions are influenced by site-specific contexts viour (Schultz et al. 2011; Chapin et al. 2009). (Agrawal & Chhatre 2006; Zanetell & Knuth 2004), It has been suggested that if local communities could including geographic and related cultural differences asso- benefit economically from enterprises that depend on nat- ciated with communities (Allendorf et al. 2006; Waylen ural resources they would conserve and sustainably use et al. 2010), livelihood strategies (Stronza & Pêgas 2008; those resources (e.g. Salafsky et al. 2001; Campbell 2007). Khadka & Nepal 2010), contact with a conservation orga- International studies, for example, have examined whether nization (Salafsky et al. 2001; Pegas et al. 2013), as well new sources of income from ecotourism generate positive as by demographic variables (Hernández-Ramírez et al. perceptions of conservation benefits (Pegas et al. 2013). Few studies have assessed the multiple dimensions 2008). Positive perceptions have been related to income diversi- of community participation in conservation. fication from ecotourism in developing countries, includ- This paper examines perception–behaviour relation- ing Botswana (Mbaiwa et al. 2011), Tanzania (Baird & ships in El Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve, Mexico, where Leslie 2013), Brazil and Peru (Stronza & Pêgas 2008). In rural residents depend for their livelihoods on the collec- Uganda, a government agency redirected revenue from tive management of fisheries, livestock and alternative tourism to build community infrastructure in rural com- tourism enterprises. munities in efforts to offset crop losses from wildlife and to improve local perceptions of conservation initiatives (Archabald & Naughton-Treves 2001). Economic gains, 2. Methods however, have often been insufficient to change commu- 2.1. Study area nity perceptions about resource use, as relatively few permanent jobs have been generated or jobs are only El Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve (2.54 million ha) is seasonal (Barkin 2003; Brenner & Job 2006). But, eco- Mexico’s largest protected area. It occupies the central nomic benefits are not the sole mechanism for improving section of the Baja California Peninsula, extending from community acceptance of protected areas and bolstering a 5 km marine buffer zone on the Pacific Coast including support for conservation. Improved social capital also per- the Vizcaíno Desert and the San Francisco Mountains in forms a significant role (Moore et al. 2006). the interior, to the Gulf of California buffer zone (INE Social capital from equitable participation in resource 2000)(Figure 1). Designation of this desert region in 1988 management can foster positive perceptions of conserva- was critical for the biodiversity conservation of northwest tion (Agrawal & Redford 2006; MacNeil & Cinner 2013). Mexico, extending existing whale sanctuaries to include Social capital includes secure rights to resources and equi- habitat for endangered terrestrial species and cultural heri- table local governance (Agrawal & Redford 2006; tage elements. Designation was also intended to broaden Sievanen et al. 2013). Collective management regimes economic opportunities for the more than 35,000 local for natural resources have been implemented in the belief residents through alternative resource use enterprises that local resource users are better placed to implement (Ortega-Rubio 2000; INE 2000). regulations and can better respond to specific ecological More than 85% of the protected area is tenured as issues than centralized government agencies (Antinori & communal ownership through a characteristically Bray 2005). The capacity of local governance has been Mexican corporate entity – the ejido, which was insti- bolstered by alliances with networks of national and inter- tuted after the Mexican revolution (1910–1920) to dis- national government and civil society organizations tribute land to poor peasants (Cronkleton et al. 2011). (Orozco-Quintero & Berkes 2010). For instance, Ejidos have specific membership rules and a collective Gutiérrez et al.’s(2011) review of governance institutions governance system organized around a land base identified that ecological, social and economic success was (Antinori & Bray 2005). In the Vizcaíno Biosphere dependent on strong leadership, equitable access to Reserve, ejidos are relatively recent establishments, resources and social cohesion. Oftentimes though, colla- occurring since individuals and families migrated from borative efforts have emphasized policy and technical mainland Mexican states during the 1970s to escape models and have de-emphasized capacity building in poverty and violence (Lagunas-Vázquez et al. 2008). local institutions and governance (Thomas-Slayter & Communal land in El Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve is Rocheleau 1995; Cronkleton et al. 2011). mainly used for agriculture and livestock/ranching activ- Community participation in conservation is critical for ities, but it is also used for settlements, tourism enter- the success of protected areas. Positive perceptions of prises and mining leases. Around 12% of El Vizcaíno protected areas, management agencies or conservation Biosphere Reserve is federally owned with <2% private initiatives may lead to positive environmental outcomes property (INE 2000). 170 W. Hill et al. Figure 1. Geographic location of community survey sites in relation to El Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve, Baja California Sur, Mexico. The regional economy relies on large-scale salt pro- conservation with development include a stewardship- duction, intensive agriculture and commercial fisheries. hunting programme for Bighorn Sheep, whale watching Residents in rural areas rely on fisheries, livestock ranch- tourism in ‘The Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaíno ing and small-scale agriculture. In some communities, Lagoons’ World Heritage Site and cultural heritage tourism is also important (INE 2000; Castellanos et al. tourism in the ‘Prehistoric Rock Paintings of the San 2002). As a result of human development, the reserve is Francisco Mountains’ World Heritage Site (INE 2000) threatened by a variety of significant threats, particularly (Figure 1). illegal hunting of endangered Bighorn Sheep and Peninsula Pronghorn Antelope; unsustainable fisheries; 2.2. Overview high levels of sea turtle poaching and by-catch in fisheries; unsustainable use of aquifer water; overgrazing; mining The study was based on field research in El Vizcaíno operations, oil and natural gas drilling; and unregulated Biosphere Reserve, Mexico, between September 2012 urban sprawl (INE 2000). and February 2014. A mixed-methods approach, com- Reserve administration is under federal jurisdiction. prising a community-based survey (October 2012 to The National Commission for Natural Protected Areas January 2013), informal and semi-structured interviews, ‘CONANP’, a regional agency of the Ministry of the and participant observation (September 2012 to Environment and Natural Resources ‘SEMARNAT’, has February 2014), was used to obtain quantitative and responsibility for on-site implementation of management qualitative data from rural residents and other stake- and operational plans and biological research. A regional holders about the biosphere reserve (Veal 2011). This agency of the Federal Attorney General’s Office for information included the reserve’s function, status and Environmental Protection ‘PROFEPA’ investigates viola- purpose, its management and its conservation. A com- tions of environmental laws (INE 2000). munity-based survey was administered as a question- The reserve was included in UNESCO’s Man and naire to 390 people in seven representative rural the Biosphere programme in 1993 and following communities. A total of 367 people responded to this UNESCO’s biosphere reserves model (Möller 2011)is survey giving a 94% response rate (Table 1 and divided into two management zones. Core zones man- Figure 1). The survey asked respondents about three date strict protection, while in buffer zones (comprising key topics: (1) the designation of El Vizcaíno 84% of the reserve) traditional resource uses compati- Biosphere Reserve; (2) reserve management and (3) ble with conservation are permitted (Castellanos et al. their awareness of, and involvement in, conservation 2002)(Figure 1). Key agency programmes combining initiatives. International Journal of Biodiversity Science, Ecosystem Services & Management 171 Table 1. Socio-economic characteristics of survey respondents in seven rural communities in El Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve, Mexico (response rate 94%). Surveys Surveys Surveys incomplete or Community Economic activity governance type Female Male completed distributed not returned Punta Abreojos Fishing cooperative 33 33 66 70 4 La Bocana Fishing cooperative 23 31 54 60 6 Ejido San Lucas* Ejido 31 31 62 65 3 Santa Águeda* Livestock ranching within ejido 812 20 25 5 Ejido Alfredo V. Livestock ranching within ejido 18 40 58 60 2 Bonfil UMA for stewardship-hunting programme for Bighorn Sheep San Francisco de Cooperative union of ranchers 19 40 59 60 1 la Sierra Cooperative management of cultural heritage tourism Ejido Benito Juárez Private small-scale agriculture 24 24 48 50 2 Rent of communal lands managed by ejido Whale watching ecotourism managed by ejido Total 156 211 367 390 23 Notes: *The ejidal settlement of San Lucas is adjacent to reserve, with some communal land within the reserve. Santa Águeda is adjacent to the reserve. An ejido is a communal land ownership structure. A UMA (Unit for the Conservation, Management and Sustainable Development of Wildlife) is a federal wildlife management strategy integrating social issues and wildlife conservation (Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (SEMARNAT) 2009). To enrich and verify survey data, more than 40 2.3.1. Survey instrument semi-structured and informal interviews were held with The questionnaire had eight sections: (1) awareness of stakeholders, including management agency staff, con- the reserve and its two World Heritage Sites; (2) reasons servation organization staff, urban and rural residents, for designation of the reserve and its two World Heritage conservation volunteers and tourists. Information was Sites; (3) support for designation of the reserve and sought on biological conservation issues, relationships World Heritage Sites; (4) benefits and disadvantages of between the reserve and local residents and patterns of designation; (5) threats; (6) effectiveness of reserve man- resource use. Methods were adapted from those deli- agement; (7) awareness of and involvement in conserva- neated by Schelhas (1991) for assessing issues faced tion; and (8) community demographics (sex, age, level of by protected areas. Participant observation, which education, level of income, occupation and length of included attendance at tourism excursions, education residency). The structure (sections 1–6) was informed seminars and a regional sea turtle conservation confer- by Bentrupperbäumer and Reser’s(2006) questionnaire ence, provided additional data. Informal interview tech- used in a community-based survey which examined per- niques and participant observation are commonly used ceptions about an Australian World Heritage Site. Prior to together in field research of community-based conserva- use, the questionnaire was approved by the home institu- tion (Bernard 2000;Veal 2011). Qualitative data from tion’s human subjects ethics research committee (ENV/ interviews and observations helped verify and enrich the 11/12/HREC). After being translated into Spanish, a pilot survey questionnaire data. One of the authors has lived survey was tested on residents of El Vizcaíno Biosphere part-time in Ejido San Lucas, on the southern boundary Reserve. of the reserve, since 2011. To determine perceptions about the designation of the reserve, open-ended questions asked about aware- ness of the existence of the reserve and its two World 2.3. Community survey Heritage Sites, awareness of reserve boundaries, purpose The survey instrument was designed to assess perception– of reserve designation, purpose of World Heritage des- behaviour relationship of residents in rural areas of El ignations and benefits or disadvantages of reserve des- Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve. The survey was administered ignation. Respondents were asked to rank their support as a questionnaire to seven representative rural communities, for reserve designation, benefits from reserve designa- between October 2012 and January 2013 (Table 1 and tion and severity of threats to the reserve. Figure 1). Communities were selected to represent the domi- To determine perceptions about reserve management, nant extractive resource uses, pastoralism, fisheries, and open-ended questions asked about the effectiveness of small-scale agriculture, and alternative tourism activities, conservation management and economic management, stewardship-hunting, whale watching and cultural tourism and what actions were needed to improve reserve man- (Table 1). Five communities were within reserve boundaries agement. A yes/no question asked whether the manage- and two were close to its southeastern boundary. ment agency had met respondents’ expectations. To 172 W. Hill et al. determine perceptions towards conservation, open-ended 3. Results questions asked about awareness of conservation activ- 3.1. Socio-economic characteristics ities, and current and recent involvement in conservation The typical respondent was a male, aged under 40, with a activities. low income (<US$320 per month) and possessing a low level of schooling (primary school) (Table 2). Informants’ ages ranged from 15 to 60+ years; however, 59% were 40 2.3.2. Survey administration or younger. The largest group was aged 31–40 years old The questionnaire was administered by a trained com- (22%), followed by 41–50 years (20%), then 21–30 years munity member to one person from each randomly (19%). More respondents were male (57%). Respondents selected house. All respondents were permanent inha- younger than 40 had usually lived in the community since bitants aged 15 years or older. If a selected household birth. Although the majority had received some form of could not be interviewed, a neighbouring house was schooling (97%), for many this was only between one and selected to produce the sample size required (n =390). five years of primary school (39%). Just 17% of respon- Within ranching communities, a slightly different dents had received tertiary education. Respondents were method was required as extended families live on generally poor. Just 22% of respondents reported monthly ranches. From each nuclear family, one member was household incomes of >4500 pesos (>US$320) (Table 2), asked to participate; however, adult family members which is considered sufficient to support basic household were also considered to be potential respondents. expenditures such as for food and clothing (Hernández- All respondents were provided with verbal informa- Ramírez et al. 2008). tion and an information sheet defining the nature of the The interviews and observations provided more research. This was read to participants if required. detailed background information concerning the economic Respondents provided their informed consent by fully situation of the different communities investigated. or partially completing the questionnaire. If respondents Residents are largely dependent on extractive resource were illiterate, the survey questions were read aloud and uses – fisheries, livestock ranching or small-scale agricul- the interviewer filled in the questionnaire based on ture, with low prices for products and experience seasonal respondents’ verbal responses. In total, 367 people out unemployment, resulting in low incomes. Informal discus- of 390 responded to this survey giving a response rate sions indicated that obtaining paid work was a priority, of 94%. although there are few sources of income other than pri- mary production. Fishing jobs provide low and unreliable pay for residents of Ejido San Lucas who depend on 2.4. Data analysis depleted, inshore fisheries in the Gulf of California. On the other hand, residents in Punta Abreojos and La Bocana Data were entered into an Access database and cross- on the Pacific Coast of the reserve can access relatively checked for inconsistencies in data entry and survey good income options if they belong to a fishing completion. Data were analysed in Excel and the cooperative. Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS version Collectively managed tourism enterprises in three 19; IBM Corp, Armonk, NY, USA). Descriptive analy- communities provide modest financial benefits but only sis (frequencies, case summaries and cross-tabulations) for relatively few residents. Cultural heritage tourism pro- for variables was calculated. Chi-squared statistics vides very limited supplemental income for around 100 were used to determine if there were significant differ- ranchers from the community of San Francisco de la ences among categorical variables: community, sex, Sierra. Whale watching tourism is conducted by Ejido age, education and occupation. Table 2. Socio-economic characteristics of survey respondents in El Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve, Mexico. Monthly income Age (years) % Occupation % in Mexican pesos Monthly income in US$ % Education % 15–20 18 House duties 31 <1500 <107 17 Without schooling 2 21–30 19 Salaried 19 1501–3000 108–214 11 Primary (<6 years) 39 31–40 22 Casual 15 3001–4500 215–320 12 Secondary (7–9 years) 22 41–50 20 Student 15 4501–7500 321–535 8 Finished secondary 19 (10–12 years) 51–60 14 Independent work 7 7501–10,000 536–714 5 1–2 years university 7 >60 6 Retired 4 10,001–13,000 715–928 3 College graduate 3 Not given 0.5 Unemployed 5 13,001–16,000 929–1142 3 University graduate 6 Disability 1 16,001–19,000 1143–1357 0.3 Postgraduate 1 Not given 3 >19,000 >1357 3 Not given 0.5 Not given Not given 38 International Journal of Biodiversity Science, Ecosystem Services & Management 173 Table 3. Level of community awareness of, and support for, the Benito Juárez in a section of the World Heritage listed Ojo designation of El Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve, Mexico, and its de Liebre Lagoon where whales reproduce. The conces- two World Heritage Sites. sion allows whales to be viewed between December 15 and April 15, thus paid work is seasonal. Tourism infra- ‘Prehistoric Rock structure comprises a visitor centre, restaurant, camp- ‘Whale Sanctuary Paintings of the San of El Vizcaíno Francisco ground, wharf and skiffs. Seasonal jobs are available to a Reserve Lagoons’ World Mountains’ World limited number of residents as guides, cooks, administra- designation Heritage Site Heritage Site tors, cleaners or in maintenance. A stewardship-hunting %% % programme for Bighorn Sheep is administered by Ejido Aware of the 94 84 81 Alfredo V. Bonfil in a core protected zone around the reserve/site Three Virgins Volcano complex (Figure 1). The pro- Support 90 92 91 gramme is a Unit for the Conservation, Management and Total support 71 80 80 Opposed 8 6 6 Sustainable Development of Wildlife, a federal strategy Total opposition 5 3 2 integrating social issues and wildlife conservation Don’t know 4 4 3 (SEMARNAT 2009). Around five hunting permits Did not answer 3 3 3 are issued each year, and they are auctioned for around US$50,000 each. Access to full-time and part-time jobs in the base camp and field camps as guides, cooks, adminis- There was a significant difference among residents of trators, cleaners and in maintenance is available to a lim- the communities in their support for reserve designation ited number of residents. (p = 0.048). More respondents from the fishing commu- nity of Ejido San Lucas, which lies just outside of the reserve’s boundaries, were totally supportive of reserve designation (Table 4). There was also a significant differ- 3.2. Perceptions of rural residents ence among respondents with different occupations 3.2.1. Perceptions about the reserve designation (p = 0.007). More disabled people and unemployed people Awareness of the reserve. Responses to survey items indi- were totally supportive of reserve designation (Table 4). cated that almost all respondents were aware of El There were no significant differences among respondents Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve (94%), but slightly fewer in their perceptions of total support for the reserve based were aware of the World Heritage Sites. Of the respon- on sex, age and education. dents, 84% were aware of the ‘Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaíno Lagoons’ World Heritage Site and 81% were Purpose of the designation. Many respondents were aware of the ‘Prehistoric Rock Paintings of the San aware of the importance of the reserve for regional con- Francisco Mountains’ World Heritage Site. Respondents servation. The region’s biodiversity and specialized eco- were less knowledgeable about reserve boundaries. The systems, for example, were identified as important reasons northern limit was correctly identified by 68%, while just for reserve designation by 69% of respondents (Table 5). 6% gave what could be considered a correct response for The presence of important archaeological sites was seldom the southern limit, with 39% stating they did not know identified (10%). Similarly, few respondents (16%) expli- where the southern boundary was. Most were aware that citly identified ‘protection’ or ‘conservation’, although this the reserve includes a marine buffer zone on the Pacific was implicit in many comments. For example: ‘It is a Coast (76%); however, almost half (46%) were unaware heritage that our ancestors have left us in order for us to that the reserve contains a marine buffer zone on the Gulf see the marvels of our environment’; ‘It is a part of of California Coast. Mexico that is little known and we have a marvellous natural environment’; ‘Because of so many special plants e are all and animals that exist in extreme places’; ‘W Level of support for reserve designation. There was wide- owners and protectors of the site’;and: ‘It is an honour spread support for the designation of El Vizcaíno to know that in my region we have a biosphere reserve and Biosphere Reserve among communities (Table 3). Ninety prehistoric cave paintings’. Integration of conservation and per cent of respondents supported the reserve designation, economic objectives was rarely identified (2%). Only one with 71% totally supportive, while only 8% were opposed informant, a 40-year-old housewife with primary school- to designation, of which 5% were totally opposed. Ninety- ing, indicated that both protection and economic benefits two per cent of respondents supported designation of the were salient, stating that the reserve was designated ‘Whale Sanctuary of El Vizcaíno Lagoons’ World because of ‘The variety of species and desert zones that Heritage Site, of which 80% were totally supportive and are of benefits to us’. only 6% were opposed to designation. Ninety-one per cent supported designation of the ‘Prehistoric Rock Paintings of the San Francisco Mountains’ World Heritage Site, of Benefits or disadvantages of the designation. Most which 80% were strongly supportive, while only 6% were respondents perceived that reserve designation provided opposed to the designation. important regional environmental and economic benefits. 174 W. Hill et al. Table 4. Differences among respondents from different communities, and with different occupations, in their support for reserve designation; perceptions of serious threats to the reserve’s natural values; and awareness of, and participation in, conservation initiatives in the reserve. Support Serious threat to reserve Conservation Total Overgrazing Overfishing Aquifer Illegal Illegal Awareness Participation support (%) (%) (%) overuse (%) fishing (%) hunting (%) (%) (%) Community Punta Abreojos 62 12 50 59 64 64 29 3 Ejido Benito 60 23 65 67 85 77 38 10 Juárez Ejido Alfredo V. 76 38 57 52 83 88 24 5 Bonfil La Bocana 70 9 67 50 78 81 15 6 Ejido San Lucas 81 26 69 71 79 95 15 6 Santa Águeda 70 50 70 60 75 85 5 0 San Francisco de la 76 25 81 49 85 90 54 42 Sierra Occupation Salaried 70 17 Independent work 70 19 Unemployed 88 29 House duties 72 24 Student 64 16 Retired 60 53 Casual 71 25 Disability 100 25 Note: Percentage values are reported for the categorical variables for which χ tests identified significant differences. Table 5. Perception of the different purposes for the designation However, more respondents rated environmental protec- of El Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve, Mexico, and its two World tion as ‘very important’ to the region (84%) than those Heritage Sites, identified by survey respondents in seven rural rating economic benefits as ‘very important’ (64%) communities. (Figure 2). ‘Prehistoric Rock Strong support for the reserve from scale items was ‘Whale Sanctuary Paintings of the San reinforced by data from open-ended questions enquiring Biosphere of El Vizcaíno Francisco about perceived or experienced disadvantages as a result Reason for Reserve Lagoons’ World Mountains’ World of the designation. Few respondents (22%) identified dis- designation (%) Heritage Site (%) Heritage Site (%) advantages. Respondents mentioned the following eco- Responded 75 75 69 nomic disadvantages – restrictions on use of wild plants Natural values 69 65 (4%), lack of regional development (2%) and regulations Protection 16 5 5 Cultural values 10 63 concerning livestock (1%). For example, restrictions on Economic values 2 9 6 Plants and animals 27 Animals 11 Plants 3 Marine species 13 80 Whales 5 57 Whale reproduction 19 Biodiversity 16 Landscapes/ 13 9 50 ecosystems Protection Endemic species 9 Economic Endangered species 13 Beauty 8 20 Unique locations 8 5 Antiquity 22 Ancestors 14 Legacy 12 Importance of benefit (very to not) History 9 Tourism 2 9 6 Figure 2. Respondents’ ranked importance of protection and Did not know why 25 25 31 economic benefits derived from 1 = very important to 6 = not designated important. Percentage of respondents International Journal of Biodiversity Science, Ecosystem Services & Management 175 harvesting timber or cactus fruit were seen as undesirable overgrazing (p < 0.000), overuse of the aquifer personal restrictions limiting traditional practices and add- (p = 0.002), overfishing (p < 0.000), illegal hunting ing to economic hardships. Similarly, the inability to (p < 0.000) and illegal fishing (p = 0.019). secure the protection of livestock through shooting preda- More people from the ranching community of Santa tors was seen as an economic liability. Finally, some Águeda perceived a serious threat from overgrazing; fewer respondents perceived that management agencies were from the fishing communities of La Bocana and Punta negligent in their commitment to the regional economy Abreojos had this perception. More people from the ranch- through disallowing industrial development, which they ing community of San Francisco de la Sierra perceived a perceived would provide permanent local jobs, and serious threat from overfishing. More people from the thereby improved standards of living. fishing community of San Lucas perceived a serious threat from aquifer overuse. With respect to threats from illegal resource use, fewer people from the fishing community of Severity of threats. Results suggest high levels of commu- Punta Abreojos perceived a serious threat from illegal nity concern about the effectiveness of the management in fishing and hunting (Table 4). terms of environmental protection. An average of 75% of There was a significant difference among respondents respondents rated three threat categories (illegal hunting, with different occupations in their perception of serious illegal fishing and unsustainable fishing) as a ‘serious’ threats to the reserve (p = 0.031). More retired people threat to the reserve (Figure 3). Illegal hunting was seen perceived that overgrazing was a serious threat (Table 4). as a serious threat by 83% of respondents. This suggests a There were no significant differences among respondents high level of concern about the effectiveness of federal in their perceptions of serious threats to the reserve’s management programmes for protecting the small popula- natural values based on sex, age and education. tion of endangered Peninsular Pronghorn Antelope and Bighorn Sheep. Similarly, illegal fishing was perceived as a serious threat by the majority of respondents (78%) 3.2.2. Perceptions about reserve management and unsustainable fishing as a serious threat by 65%, indicating strong community concern about the regulation Just under half (44%) of respondents provided their per- of fisheries. ceptions about management of the reserve through On the other hand, fewer residents recognized the responses to the open-ended questions. Almost a third seriousness of generalized threats from the overuse of (28%) identified the need for effective environmental pro- aquifers, population growth or overgrazing. An average tection; perceiving that conservation was limited by a lack of 35% rated these three categories as serious threats, 42% of agency capacity to enforce regulations (8%) and a lack as moderate threats and 19% did not perceive these as of compliance with regulations (4%). Just two respondents threats at all. This apparent limited concern about general- suggested that compliance would be improved if fines ized threats may indicate that respondents perceived less were higher. personal responsibility for these aspects of environmental Close to one-third of respondents wanted support for management, or were simply unaware. socio-economic development (32%). This included sup- As with strong support for the designation of the port for the implementation of more sustainable prac- reserve, there was a significant difference among respon- tices. A male rancher, for example, wanted: ‘More dents in different communities in their perceptions of support to the rural communities so they can be moti- serious threats to the natural values of the reserve from vatedto carefor theareainwhich theylive’.He gave Serious Moderate No threat Hunting Illegal fishing Fishing Aquifers Population Overgrazing Threat Figure 3. Responses relating to perceived severity of threats to El Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve, Mexico. Percentage of responses 176 W. Hill et al. the specific example of building greenhouses enabling of the agency’s key sustainable development ranchers to raise food for livestock, thereby reducing programmes – stewardship-hunting of Bighorn Sheep grazing pressure on vegetation. Almost one-quarter of (eight people, 2%), the captive breeding-release pro- respondents were concerned about the lack of participa- gramme for Peninsula Pronghorn Antelope (five peo- tory mechanisms that involve residents in conservation ple, 1%), whale conservation (three people, <1%) and (23%). Some wanted better agency–community commu- cultural heritage tourism (one person, <1%). Low nication (13%) through environmental education (9%). awareness among residents in the communities admin- For example, a female salaried worker wanted better istering these programmes is surprising. For example, coordination between the agency and schools to: just one respondent from the community collectively ‘Inform us about the area so that we, the inhabitants administering whale watching tourism identified whale of the biosphere reserve can care for the area’. conservation. Residents were also generally unaware of A few respondents were concerned about agency staff agency conservation projects for other key species (e.g. (3%) providing comments such as: ‘The people in charge royal eagles, sea turtles, agaves, cactus and ironwood). don’t know how to deal with people from the rural com- Residents were more aware of community-based munities, for example the way they treat people and the conservation projects than agency programmes; how- way they fail to be role models’. Five people identified ever, awareness was still low (Table 6). Vegetation that government corruption was an issue. A female mid- rehabilitation or monitoring was more commonly listed, dle-aged casual worker, for example, was concerned with 28 people (8%) from five communities aware of about: ‘The embezzlement of funds that they keep for each project type. Awareness of vegetation conservation themselves’. may be related to the availability of paid temporary jobs for site rehabilitation after road development. Community-based groups working with youth in remov- 3.2.3. Perceptions about conservation ing garbage from community streets and public areas, and recycling activities were mentioned by 20 people Less than one-third of respondents (28%) identified (5%) from five communities. There was a surprisingly their awareness of conservation by listing a conserva- low awareness of community-based sea turtle tion initiative (Table 6). There was very low awareness Table 6. Awareness of conservation initiatives among survey respondents in seven rural communities in El Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve, Mexico. Punta Ejido Benito Ejido Alfredo La Ejido San Santa San Francisco Abreojos Juárez V. Bonfil Bocana Lucas Águeda de la Sierra Total Community (n = 66) (n = 48) (n = 58) (n = 54) (n = 62) (n = 20) (n = 59) 367 Total number aware of 19 18 14 8 9 1 32 101 (28%) initiative Agency programme Bighorn Sheep 8 8 Pronghorn Antelope 5 5 Whales 1 1 1 3 Cultural heritage 1 1 Other 3 1 2 5 11 Total agency 4 7 10 0 6 0 1 28 (8%) Community-based project Vegetation 2 2 3 1 20 28 Monitoring wildlife 5 1 1 21 28 Clean up/recycling 5 9 2 3 1 20 Education 5 4 9 Livestock management 77 Conservation associated 13 4 with cooperative Care of estuary 2 2 Aquifer care 1 1 2 Patrolling 11 Total community 15 15 4 11 5 1 50 101 (28%) Other project Private business 1 1 2 NGO 3 2 1 6 Total other 4 2 1 1 8 Total number of 23 24 15 11 11 1 52 137 initiatives Note: Respondents oftentimes listed than one conservation initiative. International Journal of Biodiversity Science, Ecosystem Services & Management 177 Table 7. Participation in conservation initiatives among survey respondents in seven rural communities in El Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve, Mexico. Punta Ejido Benito Ejido Alfredo La San Francisco Abreojos Juárez V. Bonfil Bocana Ejido San Lucas Santa Águeda de la Sierra Total Community (n = 66) (n = 48) (n = 58) (n = 54) (n = 62) (n = 20) (n = 59) 367 Agency programme 1 1 2 Community-based project Vegetation project 4 12 16 Monitoring 14 14 Clean up/recycling 14 2 2 9 Bighorn Sheep 11 UMA/whales Conservation project 1 1 Patrolling 11 NGO project 11 2 Miscellaneous 12 1 9 13 Total number who 2 5 3 3 4 0 25 42 (11%) participated Note: Respondents sometimes reported participation in more than one conservation initiative. conservation in Punta Abreojos, where a community America, case studies have found that if resource users group associated with the local fishing cooperative has do not perceive economic benefits as significant, then been engaged in turtle monitoring and environmental local support may be limited (Zanetell & Knuth 2004; education since 1998. Just five respondents out of a Campbell 2007). Although community-based tourism total of 66 from this community listed sea turtle con- (whale watching, cultural heritage and stewardship-trophy servation, and interestingly, none were personally hunting) has been conducted in El Vizcaíno Biosphere involved. Reserve for over two decades, these enterprises have pro- There was very low participation in conservation initia- vided limited seasonal income to relatively few people. tives, with just 42 people (11%) identifying recent partici- While studies elsewhere have found that positive per- pation in a conservation initiative (Table 7). There were ceived reserve benefits can be predictors of pro-conserva- significant differences among respondents from different tion behaviour (Waylen et al. 2010; Brooks et al. 2013), communities in their awareness of conservation initiatives positive perceptions towards the designation of El (p < 0.000) and in their participation in conservation initia- Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve did not appear to translate tives (p < 0.000). The majority of people who were aware of into actions supporting conservation. Results suggest that a conservation initiative, and had recently participated in a residents perceived that management agencies are failing conservation initiative, were from the ranching community to provide effective environmental protection or appropri- of San Francisco de la Sierra. Just over half of the people ate support for socio-economic development. In Latin from that community were aware of at least one conserva- America, community-based fisheries and forest enterprises tion initiative (54%), while close to half (42%) had recently have provided communities with non-economic benefits participated in at least one conservation initiative (Table 4). by promoting resource management (Antinori & Bray There were no significant differences among respon- 2005; Castello et al. 2009; Schreiber & Halliday 2013), dents in their awareness of, and participation in, conserva- social/gender equity (Cronkleton et al. 2011) and entrepre- tion based on sex, age and education. neurship or local collective action (Becker et al. 2005; Westermann et al. 2005; Ohl-Schacherer et al. 2008). Studies show that improved social capital has made it 4. Discussion possible for local people to exercise more control includ- 4.1. Results ing the capacity to take action to protect the resources on which their livelihoods depend (TNC 2003; García- Results suggest that residents from economically diverse Frapolli et al. 2008). Such findings challenge the idea rural communities in El Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve were that economic benefits alone motivate participation in strongly supportive of reserve designation. These residents conservation. This study shows limited economic benefits, were accessing different natural and cultural resources and yet the residents we surveyed appear to strongly support infrastructure. Moreover, strong support for reserve desig- the designation of the reserve. nation was common among all communities and demo- Perceptions of ‘total’ support for the reserve were high graphic groups. This study is unusual in finding amongst the demographic factors of sex, age, income and widespread support for a reserve among residents who occupation. However, these perceptions were especially were generally poor. For example, elsewhere in Latin 178 W. Hill et al. evident among respondents listing their occupation as dis- concerned with environmental degradation were primary ability or unemployed. This finding differs to studies else- producers deriving a direct economic benefit from forest where where differences in perceptions towards resources (Ansong & Røskaft 2011). In this study, how- conservation values were related to demographic variables ever, this trend was not found among fishing communities. of sex, education, age and gender but not to occupation The trend found in this study for more retired people to (Hernández-Ramírez et al. 2008; Ansong & Røskaft find grazing impacts to be ‘serious’ may be due to liveli- 2011). Differences in El Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve hood-related differences as the majority of retired respon- found in this study may be due to disabled and unem- dents were not from grazing communities. However, the ployed respondents having had different interactions with majority of retired respondents perceived that all threat the protected area. Research in developed countries shows categories were ‘serious’. that people who have experienced illness, who are socio- The problems perceived by respondents in El Vizcaíno economically disadvantaged or who are recovering from Biosphere about the threats from illegal and unsustainable stressful life events (e.g. unemployment) report that they resource use highlight the limited capacity of government experience higher levels of personal well-being and lower agencies to enforce regulations. In addition, it can be levels of stress when they have access to protected areas inferred from the seeming lack of local participation in (e.g. parks and green spaces) (Burls 2007; Van Den Berg conservation that community institutions are weak. This is et al. 2010). It is possible that a similar process could a problem that must be addressed for the biosphere reserve explain this finding. Future research is required to inves- to serve both conservation and regional development tigate this potential relationship in El Vizcaíno Biosphere needs. The literature highlights the importance of devel- Reserve. oping local institutional capacity as a critical intervention In terms of support for reserve designation according for engaging local people in conservation (Agrawal & to geographic and related cultural differences (i.e. commu- Redford 2006; Ballet et al. 2007). In El Vizcaíno nity), ‘total’ support for reserve designation was high Biosphere Reserve, there would appear to be limited capa- amongst all communities (62–81%). This perception was city of both local resource management institutions and most evident in the fishing community of Ejido San Lucas government management agencies – contributing to the which lies just outside the reserve’s boundaries and the ‘hollow middle’. ranching community of San Francisco de la Sierra. The latter community was also distinguished by a much higher 4.2. Capacity of government management agencies in number of people indicating awareness of, and participat- Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve ing in, conservation. As noted later in this discussion, in San Francisco de la Sierra, perceptions of total support and This study found that respondents who were residents in behaviour relating to conservation may be a consequence rural areas perceived that government management agen- of recent, extended contact with a conservation organiza- cies have limited capacity to implement effective protec- tion. Positive relationships between the on-ground activ- tion. Moreover, this perception was common among all ities of conservation organizations and support for demographic groups and in all communities. conservation have been reported in multiple use protected Paradoxically, while protection is based on the agency’s areas elsewhere (Salafsky et al. 2001; Allendorf et al. capacity to enforce environmental regulations, managers 2006; Stronza & Pêgas 2008; Ka et al. 2009; Waylen we spoke with recognize that there are insufficient person- et al. 2010). For example, work by Pegas et al. (2013)in nel, equipment and funds to achieve effective regulatory Brazil highlighted that the environmental education pro- control in the reserve. To put this in context, the reserve is vided to residents of fishing communities by the Brazilian larger in size than the Netherlands. Just 21 people protect Sea Turtle Conservation Programme was positively related and manage 2.5 million ha. A resident described agency to perceptions of support for conservation as well as local staff as ‘hiding’ in their offices in the town of Guerrero involvement in conservation activities. Negro. Most staff, 15 people, are located in agency head- The majority of respondents in all communities per- quarters in Guerrero Negro (Figure 1). Two individuals are ceived that threats from unsustainable and illegal fishing in the coastal village of Bahía Asunción monitoring the and illegal hunting activities were ‘serious’. However, in fishing activities carried out by 16 Pacific Coast fishing the ranching community of San Francisco de la Sierra, cooperatives; two people are in San Ignacio monitoring more people perceived ‘serious’ threats from fishing activ- fisheries and whale watching activities, while just two are ities and illegal hunting activities than from overgrazing. on the Gulf of California Coast in the municipal capital of This is perhaps unsurprising since grazing is a substantial Santa Rosalía. Surprisingly, no staff members are based in livelihood pursuit in that community – in other words, the interior of the reserve. some of these respondents are less likely to recognize Given the size of the reserve, 21 staff is insufficient to their own grazing impacts. Studies elsewhere have also achieve management objectives. Indeed, a staff member reported that primary producers were less likely to be suggested that around 100 staff decentralized into operat- aware of the environmental impacts of their own liveli- ing units would be appropriate. Inadequate staffing and hood strategies (Khadka & Nepal 2010). In the Subri funding of The Secretariat of Environment and Natural Forest Reserve Ghana, for example, residents least Resources ‘SEMARNAT’, and The Federal Attorney International Journal of Biodiversity Science, Ecosystem Services & Management 179 General’s Office for Environmental Protection Ranching families in the community of San Francisco de ‘PROFEPA’, is common in Mexico. It has led to insuffi- la Sierra (in the region around the ‘Prehistoric Rock cient enforcement of environmental laws in El Vizcaíno Painting of the San Francisco Mountains’ World Heritage Biosphere Reserve and other areas of the Baja California Site) are among the poorest in the reserve due to isolation Peninsula (Delgado & Nichols 2005; Senko et al. 2011). and the low prices for goat cheese and meat. Recent efforts The lack of visible agency presence in the reserve likely by a conservation organization to reduce grazing pressure contributes to perceptions of limited capacity to carry out and diversify incomes have been attempted through sup- effective regulatory control of illegal and unauthorized porting cultural heritage tourism. Ranchers have been hunting and fishing activities. guiding tourists to see the prehistoric rock paintings in Residents we surveyed were also concerned about the World Heritage Site since the opening of the 37 km regional economic management, which they perceived as unpaved road from the trans-peninsula highway in 1984 de-emphasized in favour of conservation goals. This per- (Crosby & Hambleton 1997). Recent training projects ception may be a consequence of a lack of infrastructure intended to support the development of cultural ecotour- and mechanisms for integrating the economic priorities of ism have been well supported by the community (Romero- rural communities into decision-making processes. It may Brito & Varela-Galván 2011). Yet, tourism provides very also be due to a history of conflict between reserve goals limited supplemental income, with no one in the commu- for conservation and local economic needs. For example, nity yet attaining sufficient additional income to be able to the process of obtaining the presidential decree for El cease goat ranching. Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve in 1988 marginalized rural Higher awareness of, and participation in, conservation communities from having a say in the conservation poli- initiatives within the community of San Francisco de la cies that would impact the area in which they live, and Sierra may also be due to recent government projects to from which they derive livelihoods (Ortega-Rubio 2000; improve the sustainability of goat ranching practices. Castellanos et al. 2002). Better participatory processes and Although ranchers are very supportive of these projects, mechanisms could increase trust in managers and their they have as yet been unable to change their traditional policies, which has been shown elsewhere to effect more ranching practices. The Director of The Autonomous efficient and effective uptake of regulations (Ansong & University of Baja California Sur Guerrero Negro campus Røskaft 2011). pointed out that this community lacks institutional and Additionally, perceptions of economic marginalization individual capacity for sustainable socio-economic devel- have been reinforced by conflicts between reserve goals opment. This situation may be due to a combination of for conservation and local economic needs (Ortega-Rubio factors including a long history of isolation and a lack of et al. 1998, 2001). Historic conflicts over rights of access financial resources, management skills and infrastructure to limited resource bases have contributed to current social (L. Lyle, personal communication, 2013). This situation tensions. For example, a proposal to expand salt mining appears to have hindered the uptake of new knowledge operations into the relatively pristine San Ignacio Lagoon and information supporting pro-conservation behaviour. whale sanctuary was cancelled by a presidential decision The experiences of grass-roots conservation groups in in 2000, after five years of intense lobbying of the pre- other areas of Baja California indicate that building strong sident and following intense pressure from foreign and community organizations depends on constant external local protesters and supporters of the communities of San support through conservation networks, technical training, Ignacio Lagoon that were to be affected (Young 1999b, funding and organizational and ideological support 2001; Spalding 2006). Local perceptions about the deci- (Schneller & Baum 2011; Senko et al. 2011). sion to quash the salt-works expansion remain polarized. Even in communities with stronger resource manage- Some residents we surveyed still distrust the pro-develop- ment institutions uptake of pro-conservation behaviour has ment motives of politicians and state research agencies; been slow. Difficulties in changing unsustainable fisheries others distrust the preservationist motives of the reserve practices in this region exemplify this problem. Nine fish- management agency and external conservation ing cooperative along the Pacific Coast of El Vizcaíno organizations. Biosphere Reserve depend on valuable fisheries. Fishing practices among cooperatives are considered to be sustain- able due to effective regulation, monitoring and patrolling 4.3. Capacity of community institutions in Vizcaíno of valuable red rock lobster and abalone fisheries (Chaffee Biosphere Reserve 2003). Survey respondents from Punta Abreojos and La Residents’ awareness of, and involvement in, conservation Bocana access relatively good income options if they was low among all communities we surveyed, apart from belong to a fishing cooperative, with job opportunities the ranching community of San Francisco de la Sierra. For provided through fishing, administration, security, main- that community, the difference in respondents’ perceptions tenance and processing. may be due to site-specific livelihood and cultural differ- Despite Mexico’s strong environmental laws, a mora- ences, and to recent contact with a conservation non- torium since 1991 on the use of sea turtles, (Delgado & government organization (NGO) supporting local cultural Nichols 2005; Peckham et al. 2008), and the presence of tourism efforts (Romero-Brito & Varela-Galván 2011). fishing cooperatives on the Pacific Coast of the reserve, 180 W. Hill et al. illegal harvesting of sea turtles continues. In fact, Punta capacity of collective resource management institutions Abreojos was the only community in the reserve to have a to provide opportunities for equitable participation in eco- sea turtle conservation group. The group is affiliated with nomic and social development supporting conservation is ‘Grupo Tortuguero of the Californias’, an umbrella con- nascent. servation organization supporting coastal communities of Collective land ownership institutions in Vizcaíno Baja California Sur in sea turtle conservation. Members of Biosphere Reserve are relatively recent. They were estab- the Punta Abreojos fishing cooperative have participated lished through the migration of individuals and families in turtle conservation activities since the group’s beginning from various mainland states during the 1970s, seeking to in 1998 (D. Valov, personal communication, 2013). escape poverty and violence (Lagunas-Vázquez et al. Generally however, survey respondents from this commu- 2008). The communities thus created are, as Young nity seemed to be unaware of the grass-roots conservation (1999a, p. 373) described, ‘a patchwork of individuals group and its activities within their community. and families’ struggling to develop collective and indivi- The key question then is –‘why has unsustainable dual capacity for economic management and environmen- fishing persisted in this area, despite strong economic tal stewardship. Collective institutions oftentimes differ management and the presence of a grassroots group with from conventional businesses, having political, social, cul- broad and deep affiliations?’ The experiences of other tural and environmental goals as well as collective deci- groups affiliated with Grupo Tortuguero in Baja sion-making processes and distribution of benefits California Sur can shed light on this conundrum. (MacNeil & Cinner 2013). Those in Vizcaíno Biosphere Schneller and Baum (2011) observed that involvement of Reserve focus on generating income for members. Social local fishers in Bahía Magdalena in sea turtle conservation and economic inequalities present in rural areas of main- depended on constant support through conservation net- land Mexico have been maintained in the Baja California works, technical training, funding, and organizational and Peninsula (Young 2001; Soares 2005). ideological support. Foundation members of a community In this biosphere reserve, prospects for resolving social group in Mulegé, Baja California Sur, pointed out that and economic inequities appear to be limited. The man- combating negative peer pressure and social inertia to agement agency appears to lack the capacity to work with change resource use behaviours were the key difficulties local communities. Although NGOs have the flexibility to in motivating local youth and fishermen in collective sea work with local institutions to bridge the ‘hollow middle’ turtle conservation (D. Valov and G. Pacifica, personal between national governments and local communities communication, 2014). Elsewhere in developing countries, (Senko et al. 2011), improving collective and individual studies have found that grass-roots conservation is best capacity for conservation in El Vizcaíno Biosphere effected through a combination of strategies and Reserve will require more than generating economic ben- approaches based on economic incentives, education/train- efits or providing new skills and information. Capacity ing and better enforcement of regulations (see Campbell building for conservation will require overcoming resis- 2007, 2010; Pegas & Stronza 2010). tance to change and the distrust many Mexicans feel towards their government and its leaders (Castañeda 2012). In other words, it will require concerted actions to 5. Conclusion change negative attitudes towards formal institutions asso- ciated with conservation. Although positive perceptions of the value of conservation The lesson from this study is that for an area to can predict conservation behaviour (Brooks et al. 2013), in become a fully functional biosphere reserve requires El Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve, Mexico, this was not the more than positive community perceptions of conservation case. Positive perceptions of reserve designation benefits generally did not translate into actions supporting conser- benefits. Protected areas must both conserve regional bio- vation. An important question arising from this finding is diversity and redress regional socio-economic inequalities. –‘why not?’ This study demonstrates that context plays a This requires strong local institutions. Such institutions critical role in conservation behaviour. Government agen- must possess effective communication mechanisms, man- cies have limited capacity to pursue multiple goals for agement skills, and have the hard and soft infrastructure conservation, economic development and environmental required to build active and ongoing community participa- stewardship. The centralized ‘top down’ approach to pro- tion in conservation. Agencies must also be properly tected area management characteristic of Mexico has cre- staffed and staff should be properly trained for local com- ated, what Thomas-Slayter and Rocheleau (1995, p. 194) munities to perceive them to be effective. Only by repair- described as, a ‘hollow middle’ between national govern- ing the hollow middle will effective conservation be ments and local communities. possible. In other areas of Mexico, this has provided opportu- nities for more equitable collective enterprises to make gains in integrating economic goals and conservation Acknowledgements (Antinori & Bray 2005; Cronkleton et al. 2011). But in We are grateful to Debra Valov, G. Pacifica, Elisa Moreno, Baja California Sur, the last state admitted to the Republic Agustina Barros and Sebastian Rossi who provided much of Mexico (Del Río & Altable Fernández 2011), the needed support, translations, encouragement and inspiration International Journal of Biodiversity Science, Ecosystem Services & Management 181 during the course of this project. We are thankful to the many Brechin SR, Wilshusen PR, Fortwangler CL, West PC. 2002. Alternative Tourism students and staff from The Autonomous Beyond the square wheel: toward a more comprehensive University of Baja California Sur, Guerrero Negro Unit understanding of biodiversity conservation as social and (UABCS), for their generous help, particularly Sara Álcala political process. Soc Natur Resour. 15:41–64. Jiménez, Francisco Grado Villa and Adriana Ruíz Castillo. Brenner L, Job H. 2006. Actor management of protected areas We thank Sebastian Rossi for his work in producing the and ecotourism in Mexico. J Lat Am Geog. 5:7–27. map. We thank Debra Valov and Michelle Natalo for their Brooks J, Waylen KA, Borgerhoff Mulder M. 2013. Assessing helpful comments and suggestions on the manuscript. Special community-based conservation projects: a systematic review thanks to the many residents and communities of El Vizcaíno and multilevel analysis of attitudinal, behavioral, ecological, Biosphere Reserve for their participation in surveys and inter- and economic outcomes. 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International Journal of Biodiversity Science, Ecosystem Services & Management – Taylor & Francis
Published: Apr 3, 2015
Keywords: community-based conservation; participation; perceptions; biosphere reserve; collective management; attitudes
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