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Conflicting Frames about Ownership and Land Use Drive Wildfire Ignitions in a Protected Conservation Area

Date: 19/02/2020

Publication: Springer Link

The creation of protected conservation areas may result in protracted conflicts between stakeholders. In this study we examine the drivers of anthropogenic wildfire ignitions in the National Park of “los Alerces” (NPA) in Patagonia, Argentina. The NPA was established in 1937 to protect the native “andino-patagónico” forests from wildfires as well as preserving its scenic beauty and native flora and fauna. At the time of its creation state authorities prohibited all extractive human activities in the “intangible”—fully protected—“National Park” section, while other regulated extractive and ecotourism activities were allowed to continue in the “Natural Reserve” section in an effort to accommodate the historical entitlements of the displaced populations of “pobladores” (settlers) that had been living in the NPA for over a century. Here we interviewed the main stakeholder groups—“pobladores”, forest rangers and administrators, ecolodge owners and angler club members—to identify the drivers of wildfire ignitions in the park. Wildfires have been singled out by state authorities as the main threat to the NPA though considerable scientific uncertainty exists regarding their complex ecological effects. This study argues, based on the human and biophysical system data collected, that two conflicting cultural frames exist within the NPA that provide the necessary backdrop for understanding the drivers of wildfire ignitions. In turn, these findings raise puzzling dilemmas for the main theoretical approaches that have been used to inform and design conflict management strategies in protected conservation areas.