Community-based forest management in Quintana Roo, Mexico.
The Mexican model of community forestry is often touted as an example whereby greater community control enhances both conservation and local livelihoods. We examine the conditions that have enabled and challenged sustainable forest management within community forests in Quintana Roo, a tropical state strongly influenced by the Maya culture that currently boasts 91% forest cover. Over time, community forestry has been shaped by land reforms and forest policies that institutionalised common property and local governance systems, granted timber rights to communities, instigated Permanent Forest Areas for commercial management, and laid a foundation to respond to changing market opportunities (i.e. payments for environmental services, railroad ties, polewood, and future carbon credits). Significantly, 16 years of state and international support via the Forestry Pilot Plan further empowered residents and increased local capture of forest benefits. In contrast, recent neoliberal economic and policy changes have promoted parcellisation and privatisation of communal lands, driving some deforestation and weakening governance in vulnerable communities. Corruption, lack of transparency, and contradictory agricultural, forestry, and conservation policies have impeded proper forest-sector investment. This case study explores the dynamic human-forest relationship that has evolved and persisted for more than 3000 years, revealing the resilience of both people and forests.