The Effects of Decentralization on the Establishment and Management of Protected Areas
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In 1872, Yellowstone became the first national park in the world and ushered in a new way of thinking about conservation. In order to keep Yellowstone an area of natural beauty, the United States government established it as a protected area and has been in charge of management ever since. This government involvement in establishing and managing an area by limiting people and human activities, presented a new type of thinking about conservation and protected areas. This ideology has spread internationally and many places have used the national park system in the United States as a model for their own countries. Adopting this western ideology in countries in the developing world, however, poses a potential problem. Often times, for example, indigenous people still live within the areas that the government wishes to classify as protected areas. This also, undoubtedly, happened in the United States-and still does-with Native Americans, but this paper will primarily focus on developing countries with recently established protected areas. This leads to conflicts between indigenous peoples and the government regarding control, ownership, usufruct rights, and land rights. Decentralization is one possibility to help address this problem. If a government increases the ability of indigenous people to participate in the establishment and management of protected areas, they may be able to resolve some conflicts involved with this issue. However, there are also potential obstacles to, and limitations of, the decentralization process that need to be considered. In this paper I seek to answer these questions: Is decentralization beneficial to the management of protected areas? Why or why not?