Conservation Conflicts, Local Sovereignty, and Finding Common Ground in the Kankakee Sands

Authors: Jacob Campbell*, The Field Museum
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: conservation, justice, cultural geography
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 2:00 PM / 3:40 PM
Room: Grand Ballroom C, Astor, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Land conservation for biodiversity protection is regularly fraught with conflict. Conservation initiatives often are perceived by local landowners and leaders as threats to sovereignty and an infringement on land use decision-making. Differences rooted in race, class and epistemologies of nature tend to widen gaps between conservation organizations and the people residing near lands targeted for protection. Yet conservation projects can bring resources to bear for communities and advance local interests when trust is established and common ground identified. This paper analyzes the research and planning process led by a Field Museum team focused on elevating community participation in conservation efforts in the Kankakee Sands region of Northeastern Illinois. The Field Museum’s approach to aligning conservation goals with the priorities of adjacent communities has emerged through over a decade of on-the-ground involvement both in the greater Chicago region and in the Andes-Amazon region of South America. Deploying social, spatial, and ecological methods, the museum team works with people living near important natural areas to agree upon guiding principles, map assets, and determine priorities for the future. The paper considers the conditions which lead to sovereignty and social justice interests being secured in land conservation processes. This Kankakee Sands case study highlights tensions and possibilities that emerge as multiple stakeholders engage in a process designed to align biodiversity and quality of life objectives.

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