Ecological Values amid Local Interests: Natural Resource Conservation, Social Differentiation, and Human Survival in Honduras*


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    This is the revised version of a paper that received a commendation in the 2005 Worldwide Writing Competition for Junior Sociologists of the International Sociological Association and was originally presented at the Junior Sociologists Workshop of the XVI World Congress of Sociology, Durban, South Africa, July 20–29 2006. Partial funding was provided by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Grant No. SES-0548370. Thanks to Wally Goldfrank, Ben Crow, Melanie DuPuis, Peace Corps Honduras, and the people of Cerro Guanacaure for their support of this research. I am also grateful for suggestions offered by three anonymous reviewers of Rural Sociology. This paper is dedicated to the memory of Jessica Roy (1976–2004), a UCSC Sociology graduate student who died in Kenya while researching gender and development.


Abstract  Local peoples living in protected areas often have a different understanding about their natural space than do non-local groups that promote and declare such areas “protected.” By designing protected areas without local involvement, or understandings of local social differentiation and power, natural resources management schemes will likely be unsuccessful. Protected area Cerro guanacaure in southern Honduras has been subject to many development projects, most of which have failed, and the local inhabitants observe that degradation of natural resources continues. However, this case study shows that this does not mean locals view natural resources simply in an individualistic, utilitarian way. They also see their surroundings in an ecological way, and a sociocultural way. This assessment is based upon in-depth interviews with local leaders and 208 fixed format interviews of park inhabitants in Cerro Guanacaure.