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Strict Versus Mixed Use Protected Areas: Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve
Allen Blackman
RFF Discussion Paper 14-03 | February 2014
Although protected areas, or “parks”, are among the leading policy tools used to stem tropical deforestation, rigorous evaluations of their effectiveness—that is, evaluations that control for the tendency of parks to be sited in remote areas with relatively little deforestation—have only recently begun to appear. An important open question is how the stringency of protection mediates park effectiveness: how do mixed use parks that allow sustainable extractive activities perform relative to strictly protected parks? In addressing this question, it is particularly important to control for park siting since different management regimes tend to be sited in areas with different preexisting characteristics. To date, most rigorous studies of this issue have focused on scores of parks in one or multiple countries, a strategy that in principle could be undermined by unobserved park heterogeneity. This paper uses high resolution land cover data derived from satellite images along with statistical techniques that control for non-random siting to examine the relative effectiveness of mixed use and strict protection in a single large park: the two million hectare Maya Biosphere Reserve (MBR) in Guatemala. Our results run counter to the conventional wisdom that owing to a reliance on forest concessions managed by local communities, mixed use protection in the MBR has dramatically outperformed strict protection. By contrast, we find that mixed use protection has been only slightly more effective than strict protection. In addition, we find the effectiveness of the mixed use protection is attributable the strong performance of non-concession land and concessions managed by entities other than local communities.
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