The Role of Law in Reducing Barriers to Citizens Participation in Community-Based Natural Resource Management Models

Becky L. Jacobs

Résumé

[Extract] Environmental protection and natural resource management are highly complicated, dynamic processes intersecting natural and social systems. Policies related to these issues involve a broad array of inputs, including, among others, scientific data, legal information, value judgments, philosophical perspectives, and economic decisions, and they can have momentous consequences not only at international, national, and state levels, but also for communities and individuals. In recognition of these impacts, policy and lawmakers in 50+ countries are pursuing community-based approaches to environmental protection and natural resource management by delegating some degree of management and decision-making authority over parks or other protected areas; forests; water, coastal resources, and fisheries; wildlife; and other natural resources to community user groups.

One framework for promoting citizen participation in the management of public natural resources is the Community-Based Natural Resource Management Model (CBNRM). This model adopts a socio-ecological approach that integrates local institutions, customary practices, and community knowledge structures into natural adaptive systems protection and administration. It is believed that consideration of these factors and that involvement of local stakeholders in management, regulatory, and enforcement processes will result in improved resource management outcomes.

This paper will briefly describe the CBNRM model and will review its use in relation to various levels and categories of legal obligations in two very different contexts. It also will consider barriers that have been identified to citizen participation in these CBNRM models and will explore how law or other instruments might be utilized to respond to these challenges.

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