June 14, 2011

Protected forests benefit locals

Communities benefit from rainforest conservation

Economic development experts have long argued that having a protected area created next to your village is more likely to cause problems than provide benefits, yet a recent study, ranging from Thailand to Costa Rica, demonstrates the opposite.

According to the study (published in the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management), protected areas like rainforest Biosphere Reserves or National Parks can benefit local economies through a variety of mechaisms: attracting tourism, increased productivity (by preserving biodiversity along with water and land ecosystems) and by improved local infrastructure or institutional strengthening and development.

It’s not easy to balance these benefits against recognised disbenefits to local people such as restrictions to forest resources like timber for house building and game for subsistence. However, the new the study argues that previous research noted communities next to protected areas were poorer than average communities, but failed to see this as an effect of remoteness rather than location next to something like a National Park. By comparing poverty levels to those of similarly remote communities, this study produced more positive results.


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