As the Costa Rican government moves toward decentralization, communities in Macizo de la Muerte are asking for a hand in the comanagement of natural resources. However, the relationship between the community and the Ministry of Environmental and Energy Resource Management (MINAE) lacks the trust and communication that is needed for projects in comanagement to move forward. In this study, conducted between October 24 and November 19, 2003, I interviewed 27 community members of Villa Mills, Piedra Alta, and Alto de Jaular, as well as two employees from MINAE to examine the dynamic of the relationship between the community and MINAE in order to explain the community's potential for sustainable development in terms of ecotourism and sustainable harvesting. Although the relationship of MINAE to the community is currently one of distant control, discussions with MINAE administration and community members show that there are hopes that the relationship will become more equitable. For these dreams to become reality, however, action and trust are necessary on both parts. Community members must organize, form plans, and take initiative in the education and communication process. MINAE must enter the community as friends rather than controllers, and provide the community with greater control and technical assistance. Only with strong efforts for improved communication on either side will the community be able to achieve their potential to function sustainably.
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