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The Mayas of the Yucatn Peninsula have performed strategies for conservation of

biodiversity long before the Spaniards arrived to America in the 15th Century.
Traditional ecological knowledge of the Mayas corresponds with an intricate system
of techniques emerged as adaptations to the special climate and physiographic
conditions in the Yucatn Peninsula. Techniques include prescriptive and preventive
burning before the sowing period, planting of nurse trees to accelerate forest
regeneration, extraction of non-timber wood for charcoal, and planting a great
diversity of crops and medicinal plants in the milpas, house yards and orchards.
Albeit the main purpose of maintaining food sources for the communities, these
activities function integrally to preserve biodiversity through acting as sources of
native seeds, preventing catastrophic fires, and opening new spaces for plant
regrowth, which in turn attract game species (Faust 2001; Diemont et al. 2011).
During the colonial and post-independence periods, the main economic activity in
the Yucatn Peninsula was extraction of valuable wood. Before the independence,
this activity was carried out illegally by English companies (Keyes 1998). In the late
1800s, chicle gained more relevance along with valuable woods as valuable
products extracted by foreign industries (Keyes 1998; Klepeis 2003) without
regulation concerning with natural resource conservation.
Encouraged by federal laws, in 1894, foreign companies were granted to extract
natural resources from the region in an attempt to populate and develop the
border with Belice (Klepeis 2003). As consequence, the first wave of settlers
arrived into the Southern Yucatn Peninsula in this period (Turner et al. 2001).

Albeit heavy extraction in the area, companys contracts stipulated that measures
to protect natural resources would only take effect if the forestry industry failed
(e.g. restrict the amount of wood for railroads)(Klepeis 2003).
The Caste War or War of the Crusoob raised in the middle 19th century as a Maya
movement against the government reforms promoting the extraction of natural
resources by foreign companies. The Mayas perceived this reforms as threats to
the livelihood and the natural resources in the Mayan Zone. English supporters
from the former English Honduras (now Belize) provided the Maya rebels with fire
weapons in exchange of wood and chicle (Smardon and Faust 2006).
By the time the war ended, from 1920 to 1950, the Maya rebels had created
connections with international markets for production of chicle. However, in 1930
the federal government granted concessions for exportation of chicle and valuable
woods to foreign companies (Smardon and Faust 2006). To protect their lands and
natural resources from overexploitation, and facilitated by federal laws reformed
after the Mexican revolution (Smardon and Faust 2006), the Mayas claimed a great
portions of federal lands in the Center of the Peninsula to be converted to ejidos
(Ellis and Porter-Bolland 2008).
The first natural protected areas (NPA) in Mexico were declared since 1847 to
protect the water reservoirs of the big cities (CONANP 2012). However, real efforts
for nature conservation were carried out during the Cardenas government (19341940); understanding that conservation would sustain livelihood opportunities for
the poorest. In Mexico, numerous national parks were declared, and the

Department of Forestry, Fishing and Game was created to foster reforestation,

administration of national parks and scientific research of natural resources. As a
measure to prevent short-term overexploitation of natural resources, 5-years
renewable concessions for extraction were granted to ejidos, with the commitment
that extraction must be carried out in the long-term (Klepeis 2003). Additionally, in
the Yucatn Peninsula, chicle was conceived as an important economic income for
the indigenous people (Keyes 1998). Creation of numerous forestry ejidos occurred
in this period. Extensive forest reserves within the ejidos were the only places for
logging and reforestation activities, preventing land-use change in broader areas.
Despite this reforms, rates of wood extraction continued at high levels; hence,
subsequent reductions in deforestation resulted from the collapse in the chicle
industry after the World War II (Klepeis 2003).
From the 1940s to 1983, national private companies in the Yucatn Peninsula were
granted with exploitation permissions issued by the federal government to extract
forest resources (Keyes 1998). During this period, companies were in charge of
reforestation activities in the extracted areas as derecho de monte (logging
rights) (Keyes 1998). However, the lack of continuity in the reforestation activities,
increased population in the area (in response to the construction of a highway
connecting the south with the northern Yucatn and the rest of Mexico) (Turner et
al. 2001; Hardoy et al. 2014), and the creation of new ejidos devoted to agriculture
in the 1960s 1970s (Ellis and Porter-Bolland 2008), resulted in the first significant
impacts in the rainforest cover.

Starting in the 1970s, Mexico experienced an increased interest for conservation.

In the Yucatn Peninsula, Non-governmental organizations (NGO) started to
collaborate in conservation efforts (Andrews 2006), and the first natural protected
area was declared, Celestn (Garca-Frapolli et al. 2009). Contrastingly, as the
forestry and henequen (sisal) industries started to decline, the federal government
instated colonization schemes, supported with incentives to clear forest areas for
agriculture (corn and rice) and cattle ranching (Klepeis 2003; Mndez-Contreras et
al. 2007; Ellis and Porter-Bolland 2008). Additionally, government-oriented policies
to populate the northern Peninsula were established to provide crops and to
develop the emerging touristic pole in Cancn (Hardoy et al. 2014).
The 1970s period was marked by uncoordinated efforts between the governmental
agencies dedicated to conservation and development. Lack of coordination
resulted in poor designs and management of the firsts NPA in the Yucatn
Peninsula, with the subsequent non-acceptance of conservation restrictive
programs by local communities (Andrews 2006; Garca-Frapolli et al. 2009).
Attempting to release this tensions, great investments were made for supporting
development projects that compensated the conservation programs (GarcaFrapolli et al. 2009).
The idea of creating Biosphere Reserves appeared in 1971, promoted by the International
Coordinating Council (ICC) Programme "Man and the Biosphere" (MAB) of the UNESCO, as
a response to the need to include peoples necessities in protected areas management.
One of the first measures was the development of studies to explore new strategies for
natural resources access and the active economic participation of local people in the

Reserve (MAB, 2011). It was assumed that the long-term success of conservation would be
achieved only if the area represented a source of wealth and prosperity for the people
living in the region. This strategy allows experimenting to achieve the goal of uniting two
opposite concepts: conservation and development (Lpez-Ornat 1993). Biosphere
Reserves were designed and conceived as a political experiment, giving thereby way to
different ways of implementation.

In Mxico, the early stages of nowadays biodiversity conservation were glanced in

the 1980s. The introduction of the man and the biosphere concept, involving
human activities in the NPA, was crucial for the design of the biosphere reserves of
Sian Kaan and Calakmul in 1986 and 1989, respectively (Andrews 2006). However,
the establishment of reserves were in response of national and international
pressures (Klepeis 2003), rather than conservation efforts. Hence, these reserves
and the NPA Celestn were established without consulting the local communities in
the process (Klepeis 2003; Smardon and Faust 2006; Garca-Frapolli et al. 2009).
Establishment of the reserves was traduced in restrictions of local resource-use
(Garca-Frapolli et al. 2009) and relocation of communities inhabiting the core
areas (Reyes-Garcia et al. 2013). Surface of protected areas was also increased by
establishment of the first state-administrated NPAs Laguna Chankanaab and Baha
de Chetumal, Santuario del Manat in the state of Quintana Roo (SEMA 2013).
The roll of NGOs in conservation was strengthened during this period. Projects were
carried out in local communities to promote sustainable production alternatives to
ameliorate the negative effects of failed agricultural projects started in the 1970s
(Turner et al. 2001; Klepeis 2003), including ancestral Maya techniques of

production (Andrews 2006). The first coordinated works among NGOs,

governmental departments and research centers in conservation started in the late
1980s and were focused on the conservation of species valuable for the local
communities (Andrews 2006). Additionally, NGOs actively participated in
fundraising for conservation programs in NPA, creating an innovative model to
conduct national and international funds to federally declared reserves (Andrews
Concessions for wood extraction granted to private companies expired in 1982,
thus a large amount of community forest enterprises was created focused on
sustaining the yields of wood extraction. Community forest management was
reinforced with the Plan Piloto Forestal (Pilot forest project, PPF), which provided
the technical advisement for efficient and sustainable wood extraction (Ellis and
Porter-Bolland 2008). Advisement included concepts of administration, accounting,
forestry, sustainability, and forest conservation (Keyes 1998; Turner et al. 2001).
This initiative allowed forestry ejidos to design their own management plans and,
subsequently, to increase the area of permanent forest reserves (Bray et al. 2004).
PPF was also important because it was one of the first projects involving national
and international agencies in cooperation for biodiversity conservation and local
Reforms made to the Ley General de Equilibrio Ecolgico y de Proteccin al
Ambiente (General Law of Ecological Equilibrium and Environment Protection,
LEGEEPA) and the Artculo 27 (Law of Land-tenure) had profound effects in
conservation. In one hand, the LEGEEPA provided the NPAs with permanent budget

and staff, and designated specific areas within the NPAs where sustainable
activities can be performed (Bezaury-Creel and Gutirrez Carbonell 2009). Thus,
NPAs were allowed to implement conservation programs on field and include local
communities in these programs. LGEEPA is a valuable tool that gives continuity to
conservation efforts, as it functions as the general linings for current and future
NPAs and their areas of influence, independently from different interests of the
shifting government administrations.
On the other hand, reforms made to the Artculo 27 enabled the ejidos to change
the land-tenure regime of the communal lands to parceled private lands through
PROCEDE (Program of Certification of Ejido Rights and Titling of Urban Commons)
(Turner et al. 2001; Garca-Frapolli et al. 2009). Although privatization of lands were
intended to enhance intensive agriculture production in the communities, very few
ejidos privatized parceled lands (Klepeis 2003) because of the threats intensive
agriculture impose on traditional swidden agriculture (Barsimantov et al. 2011).
Despite few acceptance, changes in the land-tenure regime permitted
establishment of private NPAs managed by local communities or private owners
(Smardon and Faust 2006) to develop programs of biodiversity conservation,
scientific research and ecotourism (Reyes-Garcia et al. 2013).
Regional strategies to incentive natural protection and development alternatives
were created, because of the high levels of conservation of natural protected areas
and the close location of archaeological sites. Since 1993, Mundo Maya is an
initiative developed to stimulate ecologic and archaeological in the Yucatn
Peninsula, plus the states of Chiapas and Tabasco (Klepeis 2003). The Corredor

Biolgico Mesoamericano (Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, CBM) was created in

1997 for strengthening local communities in the sustainable management of
natural resources and promote conservation in 5 biological corridors in
southeastern Mexico (Klepeis 2003; FMCN 2009). The Program of Collective
Biological Resources was designed to promote integral valuation of biodiversity
conservation and rural spaces, and to increase development of rural communities
(FMCN 2009). Products of this program include a Catalogue of Honeys from the
Yucatn Peninsula with technical information about ecological features of bees and
plants associated to improve quality of honey extracted by local communities in
the region.
Fostered by the increased interest and commitment of communities to preserve
the forests (Bray et al. 2004) and the development of an efficient and sustainable
forest management (Turner et al. 2001), the ejido Noh Bec was certified by the
Forest Stewardship Council as the world-first community forestry enterprise with
sustainable forests in 1994 (CCMSS 2015). Certification contributed to raise
awareness of the benefits of sustainable management, such that in the next years
at least four community forest enterprises were certified in Quintana Roo and
Campeche (FSC).
In the 2000s new strategies were designed to stimulate conservation of forests
combined with sustainable management practices performed by both, edijos and
private owners. In the Programa de Pago por Servicios Ambientales (Payment for
Environmental Services Program, PSA) the owners of well preserved forests are
given economic compensations for the environmental services (hydrological or

biodiversity) provided by forests (FMCN 2009). Originally, productive activities

were prohibited in forests under PSA schemes, now, sustainable resource-use can
be carried out in areas under PSA. Uses in PSA areas must be established in the
ejido management plans, and must be approved as producing minimum impacts in
the forests. Since establishment PSA have been embraced by ejidos (Reyes-Garcia
et al. 2013), especially those with greater forest extensions.
The Unidades de Manejo para la Conservacin de la Vida Silvestre (Management
Units for Conservation of Wildlife, UMAS) were created to offer land owners
alternatives to use wildlife resources, while preserving natural ecosystems as a
result of sustainable uses of wildlife (Semarnat 2005). High diversity of wildlife
species in the Yucatn Peninsula make possible UMAS to perform more diverse
range of activities related to wildlife (Weber et al. 2006). Nowadays, 163 UMAS are
established with programs for in situ conservation of wildlife (Semarnat 2015).
A greater commitment for biodiversity conservation by local communities and
private owners has led to declare their own lands as natural protected areas.
Starting in 2006, nine properties were certified as areas voluntarily certified to
conservation in the Yucatn Peninsula. Certificates are extended to give
institutional support for the owners of the areas and get access to conservationrelated programs, funds or green market certifications (CONANP 2015). The special
case of Punta Laguna is remarkable because it is one of the few cases where a
federal NPA was established through community initiatives (Garca-Frapolli et al.
2013). In this community, collaboration among community members, NGOs and
research groups were needed to gather scientific information useful to request

federal authorities the establishment of a NPA (Garca-Frapolli et al. 2013). After

the establishment of the NPA, NGOs have worked actively training local
communities to perform ecotourism activities and to inform local people of the
importance of their natural resources (Andrews 2006).
Forestry communities also show interest in conservation. Compliance of stricter
regulations in wood extraction, reduction of wood extraction to maintain
sustainable levels, and prohibition of cattle ranching are a few community-oriented
initiatives occurring in different ejidos (Bray et al. 2004).
Concerned about the increasing economic and population growth pressures
occurring in the coastal areas of Quintana Roo, in 2003, the state government
implemented ecological management plans to reduce the impacts of large-scale
tourism. By 2014, almost all important tourist destination in the state have
implemented ecological management plans (Hardoy et al. 2014).

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