Ecotourism and Private Conservation in Northwestern Ecuador

Authors: Robert Yarbrough*, Georgia Southern University
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Environment, Latin America
Keywords: ecotourism, conservation, Ecuador
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Delaware A, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Since the early 1980s, expatriates and Ecuadorians, along with significant capital investment, have moved into the Nono-Tandayapa-Mindo-Los Bancos region of northwestern Ecuador serviced by the old gravel Nono-Mindo road, largely through a rapid expansion of bird-related tourism and ecotourism more broadly. While it is generally accepted that sustainable forest conservation requires large, contiguous tracts and a long-term vision, there is a sense that the emerging patchwork of private protected areas is contributing to an overall increase in conservation area and related activities. Although private, ecotourism-based conservation efforts are the norm in this region of Ecuador, the state also influences these projects, both directly and indirectly at multiple geographic scales. Utilizing unstructured interviews with NGO representatives, eco-lodge owners, several employees, and key environmental activists in the region, this paper examines the factors that incentivize this small-scale form of conservation. We focus in particular on the ways in which proprietors in the Mindo, Ecuador area navigate political and economic uncertainty in decisions related to livelihoods and conservation activities. We argue that state and private sector initiatives are impacting conservation in the Mindo area by incentivizing short-term, small-scale conservation projects in a piecemeal approach, mainly based on ecotourism. We conclude the paper with a discussion of the implications of these trends for long-term forest conservation success in northwestern Ecuador.

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