Linking Attitudes, Policy, and Forest Cover Change in Buffer Zone Communities of Chitwan National Park, Nepal

Abstract

Deforestation in Nepal threatens the functioning of complex social–ecological systems, including rural populations that depend on forests for subsistence, as well as Nepal’s biodiversity and other ecosystem services. Nepal’s forests are particularly important to the nation’s poorest inhabitants, as many depend upon them for daily survival. Two-thirds of Nepal’s population relies on forests for sustenance, and these pressures are likely to increase in the future. This, coupled with high population densities and growth rates, highlights the importance of studying the relationship between human communities, forest cover trends through time, and forest management institutions. Here, we used surveys to explore how household attitudes associated with conservation-related behaviors in two rural communities—one that has experienced significant forest loss, and the other forest gain—compare with forest cover trends as indicated by satellite-derived forest-loss and -regeneration estimates between 2005 and 2013. Results found a significant difference in attitudes in the two areas, perhaps contributing to and reacting from current forest conditions. In both study sites, participation in community forestry strengthened support for conservation, forest conservation-related attitudes aligned with forest cover trends, and a negative relationship was found between economic status and having supportive forest conservation-related attitudes. In addition, on average, respondents were not satisfied with their district forest officers and did not feel that the current political climate in Nepal supported sustainable forestry. These findings are important as Nepal’s Master Plan for the Forestry Sector has expired and the country is in the process of structuring a new Forestry Sector Strategy.

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Notes

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Acknowledgments

This research was supported by the National Science Foundation Award EPS-0904155 to Maine EPSCoR Sustainability Solutions Initiative at the University of Maine, McIntire-Stennis Grant Number MEO-M-700510-13, and the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Additional support was provided by the Maine Agriculture and Forestry Experimental Station (Publication # 3405) and the Center for Research on Sustainable Forests. We thank, for their assistances, Dr. Ambika Gautam of Kathmandu Forestry College, Abdul Ansari of the World Wildlife Fund-Nepal, Carol Kinsey of SeedTree, Baburam Vishowakarma, Satya-Narayan Chaudhary, Yubaraj Ghatane, and Beeju Poudyal.

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Correspondence to Jared R. Stapp.

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Stapp, J.R., Lilieholm, R.J., Leahy, J. et al. Linking Attitudes, Policy, and Forest Cover Change in Buffer Zone Communities of Chitwan National Park, Nepal. Environmental Management 57, 1292–1303 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-016-0682-6

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Keywords

  • Attitudes
  • Community forestry
  • Conservation
  • Deforestation
  • Forest policy
  • Sustainable forest management