Environmental Economics

Policy, Norms and Values in Forest Conservation: Protected Area Buffer Zone Management in Central America

  • Abstract
    This project is a study of the role of values in environmental protection behavior of rural people in tropical rainforest areas and will be particularly applicable in solving climate change problems. The project will examine two South American countries to determine their environmental values with respect to deforestation and the relationship of these values to behaviors. The project hypothesis is that the level of affluence does not influence environmental values.
  • Metadata
    Principal Investigators:
    Pfeiffer, Max
    Technical Liaison:
    Research Organization:
    Cornell University
    Funding Agency/Program:
    Grant Year:
    Project Period:
    January 1, 1997 to December 31, 1999
    Cost to Funding Agency:
  • Project Reports

  • Project Status Reports

    This project focuses on human forest conservation behaviors that contribute to patterns of forest cover that enhance the conservation benefits of parks and protected areas. The norms and values that may motivate forest conservation behavior in economically less developed countries are changing in important ways. Surprising findings from recent research indicate that people in poorer countries value the environment as much as their counterparts in wealthier parts of the world. Exposure to an expanding array of sometimes conflicting values can lead to social fragmentation, value conflicts between individuals, and uncertainty about socially appropriate environmental behaviors. This situation leads to the following theoretically derived empirical questions about subjectively held environmental values or value orientations: (1) What is the incidence of such value orientations in society? (2) What is the degree of heterogeneity among value orientations? and (3) What is the social and political content of environmental value orientations?

    This project is evaluating the role of values in environmental behavior and focuses on the following objectives: (1) to determine the sources of environmen- tal norms and values in economically less-developed set- tings, focusing on hypotheses posed in recent literature; (2) to specify relationships between environmental norms and values and forest conservation behaviors in protected area buffer zones; (3) to evaluate outcomes of self-reported forest conservation behaviors with objective measures of forest management and change; and (4) to develop policy recommendations on protected area buffer zone management based on research findings. Research is being conducted in the Central American countries of Costa Rica and Honduras. In Costa Rica, tropical re- search and ecotourism have drawn substantial attention to environmental issues. Costa Ricans are heavily exposed to a variety of environmental messages. In contrast, Honduras is one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere. Although deforesta

    tion and envi-ronmental destruction are widespread, there is little infrastructure for the dissemination of environmental messages. Each country has a national park system, and both the management of parks and adjacent lands pose a variety of practical policy questions related to the values of rural people and their forest conservation behaviors. This project is using a quasi-experimental design on selected communities in each country with different exposures to forest conservation policies. This project’s three main components are: (1) data collection involving semi-structured interviews, a survey of individuals and households, and followup semistructured interviews and focus groups; (2) land cover classification from satellite images; and (3) a policy-oriented workshop.

    Semistructured interviews have been conducted in both countries to identify study sites and to begin dis- tinguishing locally held conceptual models about forest conservation. Initial interviews suggest that some conceptual orientations are only loosely related to empirical facts. The investigators will continue to identify common models guiding forest conservation behavior and to assess their behavioral consequences. Work with satellite images of Honduras and Costa Rica to determine the location and extent of deforestation also have begun. The Geographic Information System analysis will be integrated into our site selection and analysis of socio- economic data.