Conservationist interactions in two Central American biosphere reserves: A closer look at power relations , differing perspectives, and selective inclusion
Biological conservation is a social practice that involves complex power relations and differing perspectives. In the past, a protectionist conservation approach, where conservationists restricted the access of local communities to natural resources, was very common. A community-based conservation approach, which allows local people to gain control over their natural resources and design sustainable management plans, is more often seen today. On biosphere reserves, conservation non-governmental organizations (NGOs), residents and government organizations negotiate how natural resources are consumed and preserved. A conceptual framework will be used that demonstrates how the political and historical context of a biosphere reserve shapes the power relations and perspectives between these actors. These power relations and perspectives then shape whether a protectionist or community based conservation approach is used on the biosphere reserve. Included in this conceptual framework is the idea that even when a community-based conservation approach is used, only a selective group of biosphere residents are included in negotiations. This conceptual framework was applied to the Bosawas Biosphere Reserve in Nicaragua and the Maya Biosphere Reserve in Guatemala, which were investigated through a comprehensive literature review. Due to the social context in which the biosphere reserves were set, a true community-based conservation approach can be seen in the Bosawas Biosphere Reserve while only a partial community-based conservation approach can be seen in the Maya Biosphere Reserve. In both cases selective inclusion of some biosphere residents over others can be seen leading to the conclusion that even a community-based conservation approach operates through restricting access to natural resources.