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Resolving the Conflict Between Ecosystem Protection and Land Use in Protected Areas of the Sierra Madre de Chiapas, Mexico

Resolving the Conflict Between Ecosystem Protection and Land Use in Protected Areas of the Sierra Madre de Chiapas, Mexico
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           1 3 Environmental Management  ISSN 0364-152XVolume 49Number 3 Environmental Management (2012)49:649-662DOI 10.1007/s00267-011-9799-9 Resolving the Conflict Between EcosystemProtection and Land Use in Protected reas of the Sierra Madre de Chiapas, Mexico Sergio Cortina-Villar, Héctor Plascencia-Vargas, Raúl Vaca, Götz Schroth, YatziriZepeda, Lorena Soto-Pinto & JoséNahed-Toral           1 3 Your article is protected by copyright andall rights are held exclusively by SpringerScience+Business Media, LLC. This e-offprintis for personal use only and shall not be self-archived in electronic repositories. If youwish to self-archive your work, please use theaccepted author’s version for posting to yourown website or your institution’s repository.You may further deposit the accepted author’sversion on a funder’s repository at a funder’srequest, provided it is not made publiclyavailable until 12 months after publication.  Resolving the Conflict Between Ecosystem Protection and LandUse in Protected Areas of the Sierra Madre de Chiapas, Mexico Sergio Cortina-Villar  • He´ctor Plascencia-Vargas  • Rau´l Vaca  • Go ¨tz Schroth  • Yatziri Zepeda  • Lorena Soto-Pinto  • Jose´ Nahed-Toral Received: 6 May 2011/Accepted: 5 December 2011/Published online: 5 January 2012   Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012 Abstract  Livelihoods of people living in many protectedareas (PAs) around the world are in conflict with biodi-versity conservation. In Mexico, the decrees of creation of biosphere reserves state that rural communities with theright to use buffer zones must avoid deforestation and theirland uses must become sustainable, a task which is noteasily accomplished. The objectives of this paper are: (a) toanalyze the conflict between people’s livelihoods andecosystem protection in the PAs of the Sierra Madre deChiapas (SMC), paying special attention to the rates andcauses of deforestation and (b) to review policy options toensure forest and ecosystem conservation in these PAs,including the existing payments for environmental servicessystem and improvements thereof as well as options forsustainable land management. We found that the threelargest PAs in the SMC are still largely forested, anddeforestation rates have decreased since 2000. Cases of forest conversion are located in specific zones and arerelated to agrarian and political conflicts as well as growingeconomic inequality and population numbers. Theseproblems could cause an increase in forest loss in the nearfuture. Payments for environmental services and access tocarbon markets are identified as options to ensure forestpermanence but still face problems. Challenges for thefuture are to integrate these incentive mechanisms withsustainable land management and a stronger involvementof land holders in conservation. Keywords  Biodiversity conservation    Deforestation   Payments for environmental services    People’slivelihoods  Shade coffee    Cattle ranching    Biosphere reserves Introduction Biodiversity protection and rural people’s livelihoods areoften in conflict, and maximizing one of these goals isoften detrimental to the other. Many protected areas (PAs)in developing countries have been created in areas thatwere used or inhabited by poor, rural populations and thishas led to the prohibition of certain traditional land andforest uses, or in more drastic cases the total loss of landrights (Cernea and Schmidt-Soltau 2006). Biospherereserves, a category of PAs, represent a challenge forbiodiversity conservation and regional development in thattheir explicit goal is simultaneously to support the liveli-hoods of their human populations and to protect theirnatural ecosystems (Cernea and Schmidt-Soltau 2006).Payment for environmental services (PES) schemeshave been proposed as a new tool to help solve the conflictbetween conservation and local livelihoods. Although PESdo not have poverty alleviation as an explicit objective, theidea of rewarding landowners for conserving natural eco-systems that provide environmental services has generatedoptimism concerning the positive side-effects on poorpeople’s wellbeing. However, the discussion persists abouthow well PES benefit the poor (Pagiola and others 2005). S. Cortina-Villar ( & )    H. Plascencia-Vargas    R. Vaca   L. Soto-Pinto    J. Nahed-ToralEl Colegio de la Frontera Sur-Area de Sistemas de Produccio´n,Carretera Panamericana y Perife´rico Sur S/N Barrio Marı´aAuxiliadora, San Cristo´bal de Las Casas, CHIS 29290, Mexicoe-mail: scortina@ecosur.mxG. SchrothMars Incorporated and Federal University of Western Para´,Santare´m, BrazilY. ZepedaConservacio´n Internacional, Tuxtla Gutie´rrez, CHIS, Mexico  1 3 Environmental Management (2012) 49:649–662DOI 10.1007/s00267-011-9799-9  Many PES schemes have been implemented around theworld, ranging from national publicly funded to small-scaleprivate led programs. Mexico has examples of the formerPES programs. In 2003, the National Forest Commission(CONAFOR) initiated the Payments for HydrologicalEnvironmental Services Program (PSAH, for its Spanishacronym), which aimed to provide economic incentives toforest-holders for forest conservation. In the first nationalconvocation, only properties located in overexploitedwatersheds or water scarce areas were eligible (Alix-Garciaand others 2005) which largely excluded the southern,relatively wet state of Chiapas. In 2004, CONAFORexpanded the target regions to include areas at risk of hydrological disasters and PAs. In addition, the federalgovernment created the Program of Payments for CarbonSequestration, Biodiversity and Agroforestry Services(PSA-CABSA, for its Spanish acronym). Areas to receivePSAH were contracted over a 5-year period at $40 USdollars/year/hectare for cloud forest and $30 US dollars forother types of forest, committing the respective landholders to not changing the forest cover in the contractedareas (Alix-Garcia and others 2005).In this paper, we analyze the conflict between biodi-versity conservation and people’s livelihoods in three PAsof the Sierra Madre de Chiapas, Mexico, from a historicaland current policy perspective. We identify the predomi-nant types of deforestation, their causes and the actorsinvolved. Then, we review three options to stop forest lossthat supposedly are compatible with people’s livelihoods:(a) the PES schemes that are in use in the area, (b) theproposed changes of current land uses to make them morecompatible with forest and ecosystem conservation and(c) engaging communities in conservation. Site Description and Historical Overview The Sierra Madre de Chiapas (SMC) is a rugged mountainrange that extends for more than 250 km parallel to thePacific coastline in the southernmost State of Mexico(Fig. 1). It covers about 1.8 million ha, rises to 4,080 mabove sea level at its highest peak (Tacana´ Volcano) and isof global importance for biodiversity conservation, hostingover 2,000 species of plants and at least 600 species of  Fig. 1  Protected areas in the Sierra Madre de Chiapas, Mexico.  Sources : Digital elevation maps and roads maps from the National Institute of Geography, Statistics and Information (INEGI). Boundaries of protected areas from the National Council of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP)650 Environmental Management (2012) 49:649–662  1 3  terrestrial vertebrates. Several important and highly biodi-verse mountain ecosystems are present such as cloud for-est, tropical deciduous forest, and evergreen tropical forest,each harboring a significant number of endemic andendangered species (INE 1999a, b). The SMC also provides valuable environmental services.It is a water catchment area for urban centers (Tuxtla Gut-ierrez and Tapachula), surrounding towns, agriculturalplains and the most important complex of hydroelectricpower plants in the country, which is located in the Grijalvawatershed. In addition, the SMC has considerable potentialfor carbon sequestration and storage. The PA system of theSMC comprises the Biosphere Reserves of La Sepultura(decreed in 1995), El Triunfo (1990), and Volca´n Tacana´(2003); the Area for the Protection of Natural Resources LaFrailescana (1979), and the State Reserve Pico El Loro-Paxtal (2000). This paper focuses on the three largest PAs,La Sepultura, La Frailescana, and El Triunfo.In prehispanic times, the intermountain valleys in thenorthwest of the SMC were occupied by Olmec, Zoque andChiapanecan ethnic groups. The Aztecs established traderoutes through the coastal plain and controlled the southernarea. In the highest parts of the SMC, only a small group of Mames lived near the Guatemalan border (Garcı´a de Leo´n1985). All these groups practiced slash and burn agricul-ture, but in some places cultivated land more intensively.The new diseases and exploitation brought by the Spaniarddomination resulted in demographic disaster for theindigenous population (Gerhard 1991) leaving most of theSMC practically uninhabited through colonial times andthe first half of the 19th century (De Vos 1994).The second half of the 19th century witnessed the rapidexpansion of big coffee estates and extensive livestock ranches. The former spread from Guatemala and the foot-hills of Tacana´ Volcano to the mid-elevation slopes of theSMC and the latter from the valleys of the NW to thehigher elevations causing the deforestation of large areas(Waibel 1946). The estates and ranches attracted temporaryand permanent workers, many of whom were indigenouspeople from Guatemala and later on from the denselypopulated central highlands of Chiapas. These establishedsmall settlements in the proximities of the ranches andestates where they grew maize and beans for subsistence,thereby further expanding the agricultural frontier.In the 1930s, as part of its agrarian reform program, thegovernment granted land titles to landless people under aspecial form of property called  ejido .  Ejido  land wasgranted from land belonging to the federation or wasexpropriated from private holdings that were larger than300 ha, the maximum area permitted by the constitution of 1917 (Collier 1994).  Ejidos  tended to be located on poorerland since the large landowners kept most of their bestlands, located in the middle elevations of SMC.As time passed, the local population grew in numbers,and more  ejidos  were created. Other immigrants arrivedspontaneously and acquired land as private owners wherethey founded individual farms. In the 1990s, when thegovernment decreed the biosphere reserves of El Triunfoand La Sepultura, more than three quarters of the new PAsbelonged not only to people living within their boundariesbut also to several communities located in their sur-roundings (Table 1). The government acknowledged thatland holders who had been present prior to the decreeswere entitled to keep and use their lands (DOF 1990,1995). As a consequence, the buffer zones were formedwith most of the proprietors’ land, whereas land that stillbelonged to the federation was converted into several coreareas, all of which were located around mountain peaks(Fig. 1). In El Triunfo, federal land provided a core areaalmost equivalent to one quarter of the reserve area, but inLa Sepultura only 4% of the total area belonged to thefederation. To increase the core area of La Sepultura,around 5000 ha of   ejido  property were included, implyingmore restrictive land use conditions for its inhabitantsbecause only ecosystem protection, scientific research andenvironmental education were permitted in these coreareas.In the buffer zones traditional land uses were permittedundertheconditionthattheywouldbecome‘‘sustainable’’.Theterm sustainability was used first in the 1995 decree but it wasonly defined in 1999 through the management plans (INE1999a, b). To become sustainable was defined as replacing a Table 1  Basic characteristics of the three larger protected areas in the Sierra Madre de Chiapas, MexicoPA Year of decree Total area (ha) Property rights before the decrees (% of total reserve area) Core area (%)Ejido communities Private properties Federation landLa Sepultura 1995 167,309 47 49 4 8La Frailescana 2007 153,227 NA NA NA 0 a El Triunfo 1990 119,117 59 15 26 23 Sources : INE (1999a, b)  NA  information not available a La Frailescana is presently being converted into a biosphere reserve, and core protected zones are being identified in the processEnvironmental Management (2012) 49:649–662 651  1 3
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