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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Parks Stewardship Forum

UC Berkeley

Building healthy relationships between rangers and communities in and around protected areas


Positive ranger–community relationships are vitally important to effective conservation in and around protected areas. In this paper we take a practical approach to identifying and examining the key issues and practices that affect the relationship, both where it is strained and where it is working well, and provide recommendations for action. The issues and the solutions are multi-layered, with embedded complexity based on history, cultural identity, and rights to access natural resources. Solutions require a deep understanding of and respect for the needs and aspirations of the community and its capacity to partner in conservation efforts. Similarly, rangers require effective support and training that enables alternative interactions with communities and greater professionalism. In general, the improvements will require building trustworthy relationships grounded in understanding and supported by strong collaborative management systems and governance. Essentially this means strengthening the social capital of conservation. Our problem analysis revealed that the internal and external factors affecting relationships can usefully be divided into six themes: law, policy, and safeguarding human rights; organizational systems and strategies; options for ranger–community interactions on-site; model systems and the role of communities in conservation and stewardship; and the role of both external supporters and disruptors. Our recommendations for action target conservation bodies at four levels—international, regional, national, and local. They are further clustered around four types of action grouped into: critical responses and crisis planning; establishing general guiding principles, systems, and management and governance; promoting the best models and practices; and strengthening of professional knowledge networks and support.

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