Sustaining our spirit : ecotourism on privately-owned rural lands and protected areas
Lash, Gail Yvonne
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Economists say that the way to correct the “tragedy of the commons” is to privatize the commons. Does this really work? While lands may be privately-owned, wildlife is not – in most places it is a common pool resource (CPR) owned by government. Can private, rural landowners protect CPRs, such as wildlife and their habitats? Ecotourism is well-known for its ability to provide benefits to local people while sustaining forests and other natural resources that it relies on. Are these perceived benefits enough to engender community support for wildlife and ecotourism? This dissertation examines successes and challenges associated with sustaining both natural resources and rural communities through landowner involvement in ecotourism. This research contains a synthesized model of successful community-based ecotourism (SCBE), two CBE case study articles and a philosophical epilogue. The first article is a longitudinal study, conducted in 1992 and 2000, which focuses on sustaining both monkey populations and the well-being of local people by examining distributions of perceived and actual ecotourism benefits and management strategies over seven villages of a private reserve, the Community Baboon Sanctuary (CBS), in Belize. Inequitable distributions of income and ineffective management hindered support of the CBS. The second article examines the conservation attitudes and practices of women living in Santa Marianita village adjacent to the privately-owned La Reserva Maquipucuna, in Ecuador. It examines women in the crafts industry versus non-craft women, and their support of the Reserve. Expectations of Reserve programs, and the private property status of the Reserve, influenced support. The epilogue introduces a new paradigm, “Connecting with Spirit” and the concept of “spiritual economics” as a method and mindset to accomplish equity, local empowerment, and unity between rural communities, protected areas, economics and God. Common themes throughout this research are: 1) private property rights, 2) common pool resources (CPR)/public goods, 3) community attitudes and perceived benefits, 4) use versus preservation of natural resources, and 5) human spirit.