Profiling unauthorized natural resource users for better targeting of conservation interventions
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Unauthorized use of natural resources is a key threat to many protected areas. Approaches to reducing this threat include law enforcement and integrated conservation and development (ICD) projects, but for such ICDs to be targeted effectively, it is important to understand who is illegally using which natural resources and why. The nature of unauthorized behavior makes it difficult to ascertain this information through direct questioning. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda, has many ICD projects, including authorizing some local people to use certain non timber forest resources from the park. However, despite over 25 years of ICD, unauthorized resource use continues. We used household surveys, indirect questioning (unmatched count technique), and focus group discussions to generate profiles of authorized and unauthorized resource users and to explore motivations for unauthorized activity. Overall, unauthorized resource use was most common among people from poor households who lived closest to the park boundary and farthest from roads and trading centers. Other motivations for unauthorized resource use included crop raiding by wild animals,inequity of revenue sharing, and lack of employment, factors that created resentment among the poorest communities. In some communities, benefits obtained from ICD were reported to be the greatest deterrents against unauthorized activity, although law enforcement ranked highest overall. Despite the sensitive nature of exploring unauthorized resource use, management-relevant insights into the profiles and motivations of unauthorized resource users can be gained from a combination of survey techniques, as adopted here. To reduce unauthorized activity at Bwindi, we suggest ICD benefit the poorest people living in remote areas and near the park boundary by providing affordable alternative sources of forest products and addressing crop raiding. To prevent resentment from driving further unauthorized activity, ICDs should be managed transparently and equitably.