Untangling the Roots of the Mangrove Tree: Understanding and Uniting Diverse Stakeholder Interests Towards Successful Co-Management of a Coastal/Marine Protected Area in Panamá

Authors: Katherine Cann*, George Washington University
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Cultural Ecology, Coastal and Marine
Keywords: Conservation, Co-management, Community, Environment, Politcal Ecology
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Evergreen, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In 2016, the national government of Panamá passed a law allowing for co-management of protected areas, revitalizing the dialogue of community-based conservation programs and inducing decentralization of national conservation strategies. This study examines the Pablo Arturo Barrios Wildlife Refuge, a coastal/marine co-management project in the district of Pedasí, Panamá. Through a dual framework of political ecology and social-ecological systems theory, this study examines the community contexts, implicit power networks, and planning processes that propelled this community to apply for co-management of a local protected area. Based on structured surveys, interviews, and review of institutional documents, the presence of a local environmental non-governmental organization, robust pre-existing community organizations, particularly in the fishing industry, and a strong cultural-environmental identity emerged as principle factors that led to the formation of a Committee for Shared Management. This study concludes that while structures for effective community organization and environmental governance exist, broader community engagement must ensue in order to overcome historically weak environmental enforcement, respond to a growing tourism industry and intensive coastal real estate development, and successfully conserve this co-managed ecological and cultural space.

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