Using Upland Forest in Shimentai Nature Reserve, China*

Article excerpt

A protected area (PA) is essential for biodiversity, habitat conservation, and the delivery of vital ecosystem services (McNeely 1993; Utting 1993; Ceballos-Lascurain 1996). In the past few decades, many developing countries have significantly expanded their PA systems (Ghimire 1994). For instance, between 1978 and 2000 China increased its nature reserves rapidly, from 34 to 1,227, incorporating almost 10 percent of its territory. The hasty designation of new PAS has created problems, notably the widespread escalation of people-park conflicts (Wells and Brandon 1992; Lewis 1996; Scott 1998; Liu and others 2001). The rising discords in developing countries are attributed largely to an anachronistic PA management myth that nature is separated from people and to the corollary that nature's integrity will be compromised if people are present (Wells and Brandon 1992; IUCN 1999). Limited by this myopic mind-set, reserve authorities usually relied on enforcement instruments such as guards, patrols, and penalties to deter and inhibit "illegal" activities of local inhabitants, including traditional hunting and collection, a tactic epitomized as "fences and fines" (Wells and Brandon 1992). PA managers often had to confront the wrath of local residents whose livelihoods were intertwined with PA natural resources (Lewis 1996; Harkness 1998). Drowning in this sea of hostility, many PAS literally became "paper parks" with degraded environmental quality. The pivotal roles of local inhabitants, including minority peoples, in maintaining biodiversity were unfortunately not recognized, and their potential contributions to the planning and management of PAS were seldom tapped (Kemf 1993).

PAs cannot continue to coexist with hostile local communities. Since the 1980s, people--park conflicts have attracted the attention of a wide spectrum of PA stakeholders, including researchers, park managers, national governments, and international agencies (Zube and Busch 1990; Wells and Brandon 1992; Mehta and Kellert 1998). They have advocated replacing the paramilitary approach with a community-benign one, stressing cooperation and participation of key stakeholders rather than coercion (Wells and Brandon 1992; Borrini 1996; Lewis 1996; Hackel 1999). The fundamental shift in mind-set has nurtured the Community Natural Resources Management (CNRM) conservation paradigm, emphasizing managing biodiversity by, for, and with the interests of local people (Kellert and others 2000). This innovative model is based on the belief that the benefits, costs, responsibilities, and decision-making powers of PAS should be shared through participatory mechanisms among selected stakeholders (Scott 1998). CNRM stresses achieving PA conservation objectives by improving the social and living standards of local inhabitants (Lewis 1996; Kellert and others 2000). In particular, local people are encouraged to utilize natural resources on a sustainable basis as the means to mitigate people--park conflicts in developing countries (Utting 1993; Scott 1998).

An abundance of literature with enlightening findings, especially from forest PAS, has enhanced our understanding of local use of park resources. For example, natural-resource extraction is usually limited to a few local people due to the land and resource tenure that predated PA designation (Brandon, Redford, and Sanderson 1998). The accessibility of forest resources correlates with where local people live--people who live farther away from a forest use fewer of its resources--while household socioeconomic background, such as size or wealth, plays an important role in resource utilization (Boer and Baquete 1998; Scott 1998). Some social factors, such as ethnic group and in- and out-migration, also influence the resource-use pattern (Amend and Amend 1995; Boer and Baquete 1998).

In South China some pockets of evergreen broadleaf forests still remain despite centuries of massive forest clearance and conversion. …