Common property and conservation: The potential for effective communal forest management within a National Park in Mexico

Kris A. Johnson, Kristen C. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Common property regimes may contribute to environmental conservation and offer a complementary institutional model to state-run protected areas. The potential conservation value of common property management is of particular significance in Mexico, where a large majority of forests are held communally. Systems of common property management often exist in a context of close institutional overlap with state institutions. This project assessed the function of a common property regime nested within Lagunas de Montebello National Park (PNLM) in Chiapas, Mexico. We documented forest status and analyzed common property forest management institutions following severe fires that threatened forest conservation. Forests managed by the common property regime are less intact than federal forests, yet still moderately conserved, and many attributes necessary for common property management are functional, despite the recent fire crisis. Yet external authorities contest common property management by local institutions, resulting in limited joint management by the national park and the community. Formalization and expansion of de facto cooperation between the federal and community institutions may enhance forest conservation within PNLM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)703-733
Number of pages31
JournalHuman Ecology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2004

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank P. Reich and D. Bengston for contributions to methodology and for comments on drafts of this paper. The comments and suggestions of three anonymous reviewers were also helpful. Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Conservation Biology in Canterbury, UK, July 14–19, 2002, and at the annual meeting of the Latin American Studies Association in Dallas, TX, March 26–29, 2003. Funding for this research was provided through the University of Minnesota by the Consortium on Law and Values in Health, Environment and the Life Sciences; the Walter H. Judd Fellowship from the Office of International Programs; and Grant in Aid #18286. Support for graduate study for K. Johnson was also generously provided by the Teagle Foundation. We wish to extend our gratitude to the residents of Tziscao for their willing and friendly cooperation, and to Victor Hugo, Mario Pinto, and the staff of PNLM for their assistance with fieldwork.


  • Common property
  • Conservation
  • Forest management
  • Mexico


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