Local Decision-making | Natural Regeneration

How Community-based Forest Management Led to Rules to Protect Young Recovering Forests

Bray, D. B. (2016). Muir and Pinchot in the Sierra Norte of Oaxaca: Governance of forest management and forest recovery in Pueblos Mancomunados. World Development Perspectives, 4, 8-10. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2452292916301448


Download PDF

I have been working, with varying degrees of intensity,  in the Sierra Norte of Oaxaca  for thirty years, both as a Representative of the Inter-American Foundation and since 1997 as a researcher.  The Sierra Norte is one of the iconic community forestry landscapes globally, with a total of 23 communities managing 201,094 heavily forested hectares.  Some 36% of the area is zoned by the communities as strict conservation areas and most of the rest is under sustainable forest management.  In the last two decades, many of these communities have diversified forest-based production to include water-bottling and ecotourism. This article tells the story of one of those communities, and how its strong governance of forest management has led to strong governance of forest recovery.

New forest regrowth in Oaxaca.

Most research on forest restoration is focused on directed efforts at reforestation, but much reforestation in Latin America has been passive due to emigration and agricultural abandonment.   The associated communities of Pueblos Mancomunados show how strong forest management for timber production and, increasingly, ecotourism and water bottling, have led to community rules that prohibit land use change in recovering forests. These forests are now being mostly managed for ecotourism rather than logging.  The current conservation-oriented management practices emerged from a history of conflict over logging versus conservation that mirror debates between Gifford Pinchot and John Muir in the early 20th century USA.  But Pueblos Mancomunados has shown how both forest conservation and production can be combined to benefit community welfare.  It is only one example of many in Sierra Norte of how strong community governance and supportive government policies have combined to assure that forest management is sustainable and that restored forests stay that way.


The PARTNERS connection
David Bray was an active member of the PARTNERS steering committee. He participated in this special issue in World Development Perspectives led by Dr. Ashwini Chhatre (editor) and Dr. Sarah Wilson and Dominique Calaganan dedicated to forest restoration.