, Volume 36, Issue 1, pp 111-123

Community Member Viewpoints on the Ría Celestún Biosphere Reserve, Yucatan, Mexico: Suggestions for Improving the Community/Natural Protected Area Relationship

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Abstract

The results of an analysis of the viewpoints of Celestún community members regarding the Ría Celestún Biosphere Reserve, Mexico, are used as the basis for recommendation to improve the community/natural protected area (NPA) relationship. Participant observation was used to record the opinions of 80 people (8–83 years of age) between April and August 2002. Twenty semistructured interviews were held with local young people randomly selected from the participant observation group and their fathers; one interview was held with a municipal officer. Results indicate that the informants perceived a lack of communication between community members and the Reserve concerning its objectives and action areas, minimal community participation in Reserve regulation development, an absence of alternative productive activities and unjustified restriction of natural resources. These perceived conditions can potentially generate conflict between the community and the Reserve administration, preventing fulfillment of the Reserve’s environmental protection mission and negatively affecting community welfare. It is suggested that communication between the Reserve and the community be mutual and free-flowing, that Reserve objectives be identified in conjunction with the community, that community members be included in Reserve activities and administration, that interdisciplinary teams be formed to encourage communication and participation and that alternative productive activities be developed. Particular emphasis is placed on the need to listen to and address the concerns of young people because they will define the community/Reserve relationship in the near future.