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1 May 2000 Conservation Through Cultural Survival: Indigenous Peoples and Protected Areas
Scott Slocombe
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Conservation Through Cultural Survival: Indigenous Peoples and Protected Areas by Stanley F. Stevens. Island Press, Washington, DC, & Covelo, CA. 1997. xxii + 361 pp, paperback. $22.95. ISBN 1-55963-449-9.

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Stan Stevens has put together a fine book that “explores new directions in conservation thinking and in the protected area movement” (p 4). Those new directions start from the premise that indigenous people in many parts of the world have long contributed to maintaining biodiversity and ecosystems within their traditional lands. They have done this, first, by living in ways that left their resources and environments intact and, second, by resisting outsiders' efforts to take over their lands or exploit their resources. This book provides an unusually useful combination of systematic overviews and syntheses of theory and experience with in-depth case studies of major protected areas and their regions in which indigenous peoples live and are involved in management. Throughout there are good summary and comparative tables, case-study maps, and a few well-selected illustrations. All are legible and relevant.

Conservation Through Cultural Survival contains 10 chapters in 4 parts. The first part starts with 2 background papers that review the history of the protected area movement and its relationship to indigenous peoples. These 2 introductory chapters are excellent, concise, realistic reviews of issues in the types of protected areas, the processes of their development, and the classical “Yellowstone model” of a highly protected, exclusionary enclave. The ways of indigenous peoples and their possible contributions to protected areas and conservation are outlined without being romanticized. Chapter 2 explores newer innovative approaches to inhabited and uninhabited wilderness and to working with indigenous and other residents. This background and more conceptual discussion is followed by two case studies of new park creations (Sagarmatha National Park in Nepal by Stevens and the biosphere reserves of the Mosquitia Corridor in Honduras by Peter Herlihy).

Part 2 on comanagement and Part 3 on indigenous management present 5 case studies of some of the areas in the world best known for innovative shared or indigenous protected area management. The cases are the St Elias parks of Yukon and Alaska (Paul Sneed), Uluru and Kakadu National Parks in Australia (Terry De Lacy and Bruce Lawson), the Miskito Coast in Nicaragua (Bernard Nietschmann), wildlife management areas in Papua New Guinea (PNG) (Peter Eaton), and the Annapurna Conservation Area in Nepal (Stevens). The first 2 areas have long histories of interactions between conservation, parks, and indigenous peoples. The other 3 cases, especially Annapurna and PNG, illustrate the possibilities of starting with a new area or system from the ground up when a very different model of management (comanagement), on-going activities, and participation are possible.

It is clear that the effects of history, law, policy, and conservation management in the interactions of governments and nonindigenous and indigenous peoples create highly complex contexts and rather unique situations. The cases here are all quite detailed, although still reflecting different degrees of knowledge and engagement on the part of their authors with the regions discussed. For the areas I know best (North America and Australia), it is possible to quibble with some of the statements of the overview presented in Chapter 2 and the detailed case study in Chapter 5. In Canada, for example, there are substantial differences between policy statements and practice, between land claims legislation and national parks legislation, and between different parts of the country. With a few special exceptions, notwithstanding policy statements going back 20 years and more, even north of 60°, it is only very recently that significant comanagement influence is developing for more than a very few parks. And then comanagement is due to comprehensive land claims, not national parks policy. Protected areas in the Canadian North date back to the establishment of game sanctuaries, some hundreds of thousands of square kilometers in size, in the early 20th century. Many of these were in fact strongly oriented toward meeting indigenous peoples' subsistence needs but were steadily eliminated and/or reduced in size starting in the 1950s. Change and progress are slow. The Kluane Management Board mentioned by Sneed is still limited to the southern, Champagne-Aishihik First Nations' part of the park, as the other First Nations' claims in and around the park are not yet settled. The Board is, however, taking a major role in the coordination and review processes that are part of the current drafting of a new park management plan. There has been some increase in First Nations' employment and substantial actual and expected impact in tourism facility development.

Given the complexity, the propensity for change in an unpredictable mix of fast and slow modes, and the highly location-specific nature of indigenous peoples, conservation, and protected areas experience, it is to Stevens' credit that Part 4 is such a useful summary of “Lessons and Directions.” Key sections address the possible mutual benefits of indigenous peoples and protected areas, categorizations of the range of forms of interaction and involvement, specific means and degrees of involvement of indigenous peoples, and a conclusion that highlights particularly useful and necessary approaches for promoting conservation in inhabited, protected areas.

Reform of upper- and lower-level government policy and institutions, active involvement of indigenous peoples in management activities, education and awareness activities, drawing on indigenous knowledge, and supporting indigenous land and resource use traditions and institutions are all good advice. And they are still scarce in many long-standing and new protected areas with resident or adjacent indigenous populations. Current comprehensive land claims agreements in Canada and the USA, for example, have tended to focus on specific rights, on formal management boards at some remove from on-the-ground activities, and on economic development and related opportunities rather than on knowledge, education, and learning. This book contains a great deal of well-integrated experience and advice both for starting from scratch and for “retrofitting” an existing protected area.

At the core of this book's message is the vision of “protected areas which are based on partnerships among indigenous peoples, governments, and the global conservation community” (p 265). Of course “partnership” has become a popular term in many places, but not always with positive political and economic implications. Yet indigenous peoples may be well placed and able to help ensure that partnerships are aimed at effective conservation.

Scott Slocombe "Conservation Through Cultural Survival: Indigenous Peoples and Protected Areas," Mountain Research and Development 20(2), 200-201, (1 May 2000).[0200:CTCSIP]2.0.CO;2
Published: 1 May 2000

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