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Traditionally, setting aside ecologically fragile sections of forest as protected areas has been part of forest management strategies worldwide. Despite acknowledgement of their importance for biodiversity preservation and other benefits, however, protected areas have been a contentious issue because of competing interests and resentment about restrictions on the utilisation of natural resources.
With growing recognition of the need to represent the interests of diverse stakeholders in forest management, decisions about protected areas have become even more complex because of complicated issues related to jurisdiction and control.
CIFOR is studying ways of reconciling the tensions surrounding protected areas so they can meet environmental objectives without jeopardising the well-being of local inhabitants. Much of this work is centered on the development of new strategies for cooperative planning and management of protected areas. Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, has been a key partner in this area, in line with the universitys major programme of research to improve land use policy and practices in areas where traditional agriculture and conservation interests tend to clash.
In a workshop at Cornell in September, conservationists, development experts and researchers from CIFOR and many other institutions around the world discussed key issues that hinder support for protected areas as a conservation strategy and how this opposition might be overcome. The participants agreed on the need to treat protected areas as part of larger ecosystems, rather than as isolated and self-contained reserves, and to develop more comprehensive and "pluralistic" management plans that reflect this broader scope of impact. Strategies to improve decision making and governance of protected areas will be a central focus of CIFORs new research programme on Adaptive Co-Management.