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A multi-level perspective on conserving with communities: Experiences from upper tributary watersheds in montane mainland Southeast Asia

Authors:

Louis Lebel ,

Unit for Social and Environmental Research; Chiang Mai University, Thailand, TH
About Louis
Director. Unit for Social and Environmental Research. Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiang Mai University.
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Rajesh Daniel,

Unit for Social and Environmental Research; Chiang Mai University, Thailand, TH
About Rajesh
Researcher. Unit for Social and Environmental Research. Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiang Mai University.
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Nathan Badenoch,

Unit for Social and Environmental Research; Chiang Mai University, Thailand; World Conservation Union; Vientiane, Laos PDR, TH
About Nathan
Researcher. Unit for Social and Environmental Research. Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiang Mai University.
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Po Garden,

Unit for Social and Environmental Research; Chiang Mai University, Thailand, TH
About Po
Researcher. Unit for Social and Environmental Research. Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiang Mai University.
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Masao Imamura

Unit for Social and Environmental Research; Chiang Mai University, Thailand, TH
About Masao
Researcher. Unit for Social and Environmental Research. Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiang Mai University.
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Abstract

Mountains provide habitat for human and non-human life as well as many ecosystem goods and services useful to society at multiple spatial levels. In this paper we show that adopting a multi-level perspective allows for a more nuanced understanding of the governance challenges arising in the management of upper tributary watersheds for conservation purposes. Rather than assuming that the correct and best levels are known we look at how discourses privilege certain levels over others and how decisions about levels are made. Social groups, resources, places and institutions have scale-like characteristics which can confound simplistic models for conserving with communities. Communities are heterogeneous, vaguely bounded and shift levels. People belong to multiple communities. Resources are used-up and services valued at different spatial levels from those at which they may be ruled and managed. Areas of jurisdictions, resource characteristics and capacities of authority at particular levels may not coincide very well. Integration and segregation of use and conservation is, in part, an issue of resolution and frequency with which a landscape is viewed. The multi-level perspective on conserving with communities described in this paper helps better understand why the expectations of different actors are hard to satisfy and projects are perceived as failures. Some of the differences are a result of looking at the system from different levels and others the failure to acknowledge important cross-level interactions. It suggests that there is no a priori reason to privilege one level to the exclusion of consideration of all others in setting conservation objectives, nor in finding ways to meet them. The burdens and benefits of conservation should not be borne by, or accrue to, just one level.
Keywords: FORE BIO LAND TAN 
How to Cite: Lebel, L. et al., (2007). A multi-level perspective on conserving with communities: Experiences from upper tributary watersheds in montane mainland Southeast Asia. International Journal of the Commons. 2(1), pp.127–154. DOI: http://doi.org/10.18352/ijc.29
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Published on 22 Nov 2007.
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