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Steeming the Tide. Opposition and Conflict in the Creation of Natural Protected Areas. A case study of the Natural Park of Puebla de San Miguel (Valencia), Spain



The declaration of a new Protected Area is a decision made by political authorities which does not always gain the consensus of the people who live in the area concerned. In this article, we will look at the barriers in establishing a fruitful dialogue between both parties, taking as an example the Natural Park of Puebla de San Miguel in the province of Valencia (Spain). We will also explain the reasons for the opposition among the local residents to this new Protected Area.
Stemming the tide. Opposition and Conflict in the Creation of Natural Protected Areas 225
Copyright © 2014 Mediterranean Institute, University of Malta.
Journal of Mediterranean Studies, 2014 ISSN: 1016-3476 Vol. 23, No. 2: 225–237
Catholic University of Valencia - Spain
The declaration of a new Protected Area is a decision made by political authorities which does not
always gain the consensus of the people who live in the area concerned. In this article, we will
look at the barriers in establishing a fruitful dialogue between both parties, taking as an example
the Natural Park of Puebla de San Miguel in the province of Valencia (Spain). We will also
explain the reasons for the opposition among the local residents to this new Protected Area.
In recent years there has been a marked increase in efforts to protect that which had been left
behind as a result of modern-day development, namely a ‘lost nature’. This idea of the natural
is marked by ambivalence; even though it may have originated in the post-industrial society
itself, it is at the same time something we are constantly moving away from. This phenomenon
of defining the limits of nature began, as is well known, in 1872 with Yellowstone National
Park (NP) in the USA, and saw its beginnings in Spain with the declaration of the first NP
in 1918.
Management over the environment was delegated to the regions at the beginning of the
process of autonomy in Spain during the 1980s.1 In this way Spain, which in 1975 had barely
150,000 acres of protected space (with a total of twenty-seven declared areas), increased its
protected surface to over four million acres with more than five hundred Protected Areas
(PAs)2 in 2007 (Tolón and Lastra 2008).
The convening of the Earth Summit in Río de Janeiro in June 1992 was a huge boost for
environmental policies. In particular, principle 4 of the Rio Summit which states: ‘In order
to achieve sustainable development, environmental protection shall constitute an integral part
of the development process chain and cannot be considered in isolation from it’; set off the
substantial development of Natural Parks in Spain (Santamarina Campos, 2008).
The declaration of a new PA has been, since the origin of NPs, a matter of dispute,
confrontation and opposition between the regional authorities and the inhabitants of the area
concerned. The interest in increasing the number of NPs in the Valencian Community led the
autonomous government in 2007 to declare the most recent PA, the National Park of Puebla
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226 Pablo Vidal-Gonzalez & Angela Calero Valverde
de San Miguel, in spite of local opposition. This study aims to analyze the causes and effects
of the conflict, from a conservation perspective in order to take advantage of the lessons
learned and propose other approaches to similar situations.
State of the Art
As West et al. (2006) comment, from the very moment the mythical Yellowstone Park was
constituted (1872), the indigenous communities which lived there were evicted, with the help
of the army. From the very beginning, the decision to declare an area a PA or a NP was made
by the urban elite interested in reproducing a romantic state of ‘wilderness’, a return to a lost
paradise. Such decisions tended to be made without taking into account what we would later
discover, that every territory is shaped and modelled, in some way or other, by human beings.
This same dispute occurred in the Yosemite NP, created in 1890, between those who promoted
sustainable growth in the rural communities, headed by Mary Austin, and those who wanted
to evict those who lived off the land, in this case shepherds and their flocks, headed by John
Muir who, with his policy of ‘wilderness’, won the battle (Lebaudy 2013). Since then local
communities, especially those in developing countries have started to be considered as an
obstacle to the protection of sustainable growth. Since the nineteenth century there has been
conflict between the defence of nature, promoted by governments and environmental
associations, and the preservation of the rights of use and exploitation of natural resources,
promoted by the local communities who abruptly found themselves amidst a globalised notion
of environmental protection.
This conflict has been extensively studied in South America, Asia, Africa and Oceania.
In particular, scholars have tended to focus their attention on indigenous communities, ‘a
common problem in developing countries’ (Maikhuri et al. 2000). Naughton-Treves et al.
(2005: 243) highlighted the ways in which local indigenous communities have helped maintain
high levels of Biodiversity. One should not be surprised that it is precisely those same areas
which end up being designated as new PAs.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) launched an initiative to
enable conflict resolution in protected areas through ensuring that conservation practices
respect the rights of indigenous peoples resulting in the Whakatane Mechanism (Freudenthal
et al. 2012).
The management of PA’s, however, is also a source of conflict between local communities
and governmental authorities in Western countries. ‘People may think that protected areas will
restrict their leisure activities, such as camping and fishing, or limit their ability to use the
land for agriculture, forestry, and hunting’ (Stoll-Kleemann 2001b: 38).
The declaration of a new PA means limiting and regulating the rights the traditional
owners and users had enjoyed up until that time, for the benefit of environmental protection.
‘Park rules limiting access to resources create conditions of relative scarcity and uncertainty
about future access.’ (Koch 1998: 387). The opposition to the declaration of a new PA is a
phenomenon which is also characteristic of developed countries.
These controversial issues have been analysed in the USA (Stern 2008; Gray 2004). In
Australia, apart from the conflicts with the indigenous communities, Slattery (2002) analysed
the public protests in opposition to the development of new services within the park in the
Wilson Promontory NP.
We do not agree with West et al. (2006: 258) when they point out that ‘The lack of
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Stemming the tide. Opposition and Conflict in the Creation of Natural Protected Areas 227
European regions in the literature demonstrates the relative lack of hardship created by protected
areas on this continent’. There is an abundant literature that documents such conflicts in
languages other than English, as highlighted by Ruschkowsk and Mayer (2011: 151). We can
also find examples of this confrontation in several cases from Germany, Romania, Greece and
Spain (Stoll-Kleemann, 2001b; Vasile, 2008; Theodossopoulos, 1997; Vidal-González, 2014).
In France, the problems of management between livestock owners who traditionally made use
of the pastures within the NPs and the administrators of the parks are indeed serious, as for
example in the case of the Mercantour and Cevennes PAs.3 The recent reappearance of wolves
in these areas has once again led to controversial confrontation between conservationists and
livestock owners.
Opposition and Conflict in the Face of the Declaration of
La Puebla de San Miguel as a Natural Park
Research methodology
The data for this study is the result of anthropological fieldwork carried out in the village of
La Puebla de San Miguel, in the province of Valencia (Spain). While this village has 77
registered inhabitants, during the period in which fieldwork was conducted in the summer of
2013, there was a stable population of 20 year-round residents. A total of 18 were interviewed.
The aim of the fieldwork was to get to know the different points of view and perceptions of
the conflict which had arisen during the process of creation and declaration of the municipality
as a Natural Park. In order to access these people we used the ‘snowball’ technique, starting
from a previous contact with several inhabitants as a result of earlier ethnographic work, who
then put us in contact with the rest of the informants. The main method used in order to
compile data was through ethnographic interviews accompanied by participant observation, as
well as meetings with participants and officials from the Park and the municipality, informal
conversations and different materials such as a virtual chat room used by the inhabitants and
several press releases.
The Causes of the Conflict
La Puebla de San Miguel is a municipality in the interior of the Valencian Community,
situated 122 kilometres from the capital, and at nearly two hours by car from the populated
coast it is not easy to access. The municipality has a large area of 63.6 km2, a low population
density, 1.4 per km2 with 77 registered inhabitants, only 20 of whom are permanent residents.
A continental Mediterranean climate, with very low temperatures in winter, makes only very
scarce cultivation possible. This would explain the strong migration process to the rich coastal
area. In 1920 the village had 399 inhabitants, and since the 1950s the population has continued
to decline to the 77 present-day inhabitants. By contrast, this means that it has managed to
preserve a rich environmental heritage with large forested areas which have been subjected
to a respectful exploitation by the villagers, carried out within parameters of environmental
In the decade between 1997 and 2007, Spain in general, but especially the Valencian
Community, experienced a building boom, which is very evident in the abundance of
uncontrolled construction work. This rampant construction was seen principally along the
Mediterranean Coast due to the attractive nature of Valencian beaches for people buying a
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228 Pablo Vidal-Gonzalez & Angela Calero Valverde
second residence, mainly foreign tourists. As a compensatory policy in light of this intense
urban growth, the Valencian government intensified the creation of new PAs, leading to 7 new
NPs during the 2005–2007 period. This was an effort to justify the imbalances on the coast,
the wealthiest and most densely populated areas, thus ‘legitimizing destruction through
protection’ (Santamarina Campos 2008: 39). In this way, the interior areas, which are poor
and sparsely populated (Vidal-González 2014), were compensated by the creation of new
environmental containers and recipients, new spaces theoretically protecting nature. While the
average protected surface area in Spain is about 28% of the community territory, the Valencian
Community has protected 45.95% of its territory, the second community with most PAs, only
behind the Canary Islands (Europarc 2010).
The most recent of these PAs created in the Valencian region was the NP of la Puebla de
San Miguel, in 2007, which during the phase prior to its declaration as a NP had brought the
inhabitants into confrontation with one another and also with the regional administration.
The Conflict
From the regional administration’s perspective, the territory is part of the interior, that is to
say, with an extreme climate and harsh subsistence conditions. Its low population density and
very large extension of territory (5,300 communal acres and 1,000 private acres) made it the
ideal candidate to considerably increase the percentage of protected territory. The proposal
was also relevant because the NP was an administrative figure which fitted exactly within the
space of a single municipality. The first communication was with the mayor, who quickly saw
this initiative as a great opportunity to improve and bring about progress. This would place
this small and remote hamlet on the administrative ‘map’. Conversations between both parties
were initiated; however, the mayor, who governed the village by a system of open council,
only informed his close circle of friends. The rest of the inhabitants found out through the
press about the intentions of the administration regarding their territory.
Growing rumours in the face of the project to create a Park and the amount of false stories
circulating about its implementation created considerable social alarm amongst the villagers.
As one informant says:
‘It was not well explained from the very beginning.4
There was a strong and effervescent opposition to the mayor and the Park project under the
slogan ‘Park No!’ And the mayor was accused of being a self-seeking manipulator, as another
informant told us:
He must have thought this was his private manor.’
This outcry was the vehicle leading to an alternative candidature for the municipal elections.
Despite the fact that several informative meetings were held by the regional administration in
previous months, indignation had already been fuelled amongst the villagers against the
mayor and the project conducted by the regional administration, and the situation had become
very tense. Several conveyed their views in the following ways:
‘They come from outside to manage what is ours.’
‘We didn’t want anybody to come here poking their noses into everything.’
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Stemming the tide. Opposition and Conflict in the Creation of Natural Protected Areas 229
‘It was something which was imposed on us.’
‘They restricted our freedom.’
‘It was something which Valencia had decided.’
‘They steamrolled us and trampled on us because we are not important.’
‘The park took over everything.’
‘Is our opinion really worth nothing?5
‘We have felt manipulated and our opinion has not been taken into account.6
‘It has been done without taking us into consideration.7
‘Things can’t only be dealt with in an office.’
‘Things can’t be done in such a dictatorial way.’
The inhabitants opposing the NP hung banners on the
balconies of their houses (fig. 1) and carried out several pot-
banging protests through the village. The forceful opposition
was motivated primarily by their frustration at being treated
like nobodies, without the ability to share their opinions
about such a fundamental issue that directly impacts their
lives. For them, finding out about the NP on television was
simply humiliating.
The indignation traveled by word of mouth between close
neighbors and was accompanied by a growing number of
rumors and suspicions that contributed to the growing
irritation. When those in opposition organized a protest, the
mayor was surprised. This was something which had never
happened before, and which made the mayor call the Civil
Guard in order to break up the demonstration, which was
regarded as illegal. At the same time, a registration process for new villagers was initiated at
the town hall with a view to reversing the situation during the following elections. This was
denounced by the mayor, who argued that these people were not habitual residents.
Consequently, technicians of the National Institute for Statistics (INE) carried out an inspection
in the village, resulting in twenty-four new registrations being declared legally null and void.8
Changes in the municipal population census are indeed significant, since it went from 65
inhabitants in 2006 to 107 in 2007, and back to 66 once the elections were over in 2008.These
actions, carried out in a small population of the interior where everybody knows one another,
provoked consternation amongst the villagers, who had never witnessed such a situation. This
situation was not without its accompanying threats and verbal excesses form the neighbours,
which all inhabitants complain about in a small and otherwise peaceful village.
‘Everyone must fight in defence of La Puebla so that the Park is not created.9
‘The mayor of La Puebla has his days numbered and let him be prepared because we will
be going after him and all of his mates....10
‘They should be strung up in the village square.11
Fig. 1
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230 Pablo Vidal-Gonzalez & Angela Calero Valverde
In spite of opposition from most (75%–80%) of the inhabitants, the regional administration
declared that the entire municipality was a NP two days before the municipal elections. The
party which led the opposition to the NP won an overwhelming victory, and since then
opposition to the park has been their most important leitmotiv.
There was a strong feeling of indignation and powerlessness due to the imposition which
had been effected. And there was also serious misinformation about the consequences that the
new state of protection would have. Rumours and fears between neighbours were rife because
there was a lack of clear, transparent information about the consequences and implications of
the Park.Together with these, there was also a huge mistrust of anything which came from
‘It’s going to become a reserve and we are the Indians.’
‘They are going to take away from us the land of our fathers.’
‘They are going to take away our lands.’
‘They took away our homes.’
The above three comments by drawing explicit analogy with the situation of native
americans express fears of expropriation likening themselves to colonised ethnic minorities in
the United States. They express a feeling of a loss of home but also of tradition and history.
Other comments expressed fears of not being able to sustain their lifestyles and livelihood.
‘They don’t allow us to go for walks in our surroundings.’
‘You can’t gather wood.’
‘They were not going to allow you to do whatever you wanted (with your own land).’
‘We will not be able to work with our beehives.’
‘They will not allow us to take our flocks to pasture’
Confronted by what most of the village considered an imposition against the wishes of the
majority, the town council proposed an appeal against the decree of the declaration of NP in
the courts. This appeal was turned down. Subsequently, an appeal was lodged before the
Supreme Court. This second appeal was also rejected and put an end to any further legal action.
Throughout this period of time, the villagers, including those who staunchly opposed the
declaration, have not observed any restrictions or suffered prohibitions due to the protection
of the PA. Local people as well as people from the county have been employed to work in
the NP. There has been significant financial investment in the area and potentially more in the
future. There has also been a significant increase in the number of visitors to the area, thanks
to the attraction of the new figure of protection. This has not been a nuisance for the villagers.
On the contrary, it has generated a moderate increase in their incomes, mainly in the hotel and
catering sector. In this sense, the person who runs the only bar that serves food in the village
told us that it was thanks to the NP and to the influx of visitors which it produces, that she
is able to stay open.
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Stemming the tide. Opposition and Conflict in the Creation of Natural Protected Areas 231
In spite of the fact that six years have gone by since the declaration of the NP, with the
PA now functioning, there is an enormous chasm and open wounds between many of the
inhabitants and the Park managers. As far as the village people are concerned, the latter
represent the regional authorities. For this reason, it is difficult for the Park to function in a
normal way. Having cooperation between the local and regional administrations is needed in
order to achieve the much desired sustainable development in the area. The lack of
communication between the two administrations is notorious. Therefore, what should have
been a well-managed Park, which is an important factor for development in the area, has in
fact become an element of conflict, division and confrontation.
‘What really matters is that there is agitation, that money is spent on court cases, that lies
are told ... shepherds pasture, farmers work their fields, hunters hunt, antennas have been
installed, there will be jobs, there is no avalanche of people ... but, what people no longer
remember is the lies that were told and how upset people really are.12
‘If we carry on being angry then we are not going to get anywhere.13
The fact is that a significant number of the inhabitants currently work in the NP. These new
jobs have been of great importance for the sustainability of the village. The PA has attracted
new investments and increased local wealth, but the atmosphere of distrust against Park
authorities still exists.
Wilderness with people
A proposal for the declaration of a new PA is always a political decision (Baird 2009: 234)
made by the authorities. They wish to improve their environmental commitment by offering
an image of being concerned about the sustainability of the territory, something which is
appreciated by people at large, but ‘not in my back yard’. In this sense, we are dealing with
a popular action which responds to a growing demand for new ‘natural’ spaces which will
allow people to ‘consume something environmental’. This demand to consume nature comes
from a demographic majority which originates from the urban elite and the population who
have had to sacrifice their lives in the great cities in the interest of progress. In this regard,
‘The urban tourist is more interested in visiting wild forests and mountains than wheat or corn
fields’ (Vaccaro and Beltrán 2010: 14). For this reason the national and regional authorities,
well aware of these new requisites of city people, have to respond to these demands with new
declarations and the protection of new spaces for citizen consumption. They must also preserve
landscapes of special relevance and sense of identity. The struggle for the preservation of the
environment has turned into another government obligation, as the government feels that it
has to undertake this commitment. It is an impulse characteristic of globalization; bringing
together global environmental interests and local ones (West et al. 2006: 265, Pfeffer et al.
2001: 382) affecting all citizens.
In this regard, the authorities have the obligation, in order to preserve the common good,
to carry out these practices in the territory. Several authors argue about the need to impose
criteria of protection beyond the interests of the local communities which are directly affected
by these decisions. Berkes (2007: 15188) states, ‘I have suggested that solutions need to be
imposed’. Similarly, Brockington indicates to us that ‘local support is not necessarily vital for
the survival of protected areas. Conservation can be imposed despite local opposition’. Then
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232 Pablo Vidal-Gonzalez & Angela Calero Valverde
he concludes shortly after, that ‘human costs have to be paid to prevent the destruction of the
environment’ (2004: 401, 424).
Stoll-Kleemann highlights the antagonism between the two main protagonists in the process
of conservation. She points out that ‘agency officials regard nature conservation as a battle
against local opposition for the survival of nature’, and so those who manage nature ‘think
participation is a waste of time’ (2001b: 39, 40). Vasile points out that in the Romanian case
for example, ‘State representatives believe that communities should not be consulted for
establishing protected areas, because of exaggerated demands and of lack of communication
skills’(2008: 90).
Managing a new park without understanding that within its limits there are people who
live there turns out to be an illusion. Managing it behind the backs of those who are involved
can only end up in opposition and permanent conflict. As Redpath notes; ‘There is evidence
that effective participation improves relationships, increases trust, and reduces conflict’ (Redpath
et al. 2013: 102). The analysis of environmental problems should be as inclusive and exhaustive
as the topic itself, considering more the cultural than physical or biological dimensions,
(Milton 1999).
Dialogue on behalf of Nature
Protection of the environment is the responsibility of the administration in its pursuit to work
for the common good. It would seem clear, then, that the creation of a new PA should be
preceded by a phase of dialogue, cooperation and negotiation between the parties involved:
the administration and the inhabitants, as well as other people who may be affected by the
declaration. It should be made clear that the new figure of protection will necessarily bring
along with it a set of restrictions to the traditional users of the space. The authorities introduce
‘values, norms, and obligations that constrain local practices in a variety of ways’ (Pfeffer
et al. 2001: 385) and the locals may associate ‘nature conservation regulations with restrictions
on personal (and sometimes property) rights’ (Stoll-Kleemann, 2001b: 37–38). As Calero
Valverde (2012) points out, the inhabitants of a PA, may feel suspicion and distrust in the face
of plans of the administration to boost tourism and leisure for outsiders.
To delimit a space for its conservation could be seen as a victory for those who live in
the cities. Those who live in the cities are the ones who are mainly responsible for
contamination, and who consequently see the need to take control of and expropriate that
which is not theirs in order to offset construction, contamination and urban life in favour of
nature, rural life and fresh air. In this sense, it would be necessary to make sure that the
inhabitants of rural areas should not pay for the abuses of the urban world, a type of ‘toll’
so that others may enjoy what they have conserved throughout many generations. Clearly, it
is necessary to avoid a feeling among rural communities of being excluded from the property,
use and management of the protected areas (Ojeda-Rivera 1999); this exclusion, apart from
being rigorously unfair, will provoke important management issues in the future. It is essential
that the inhabitants have more influence in the decision making process. ‘Although it may
seem counterintuitive that the foremost influences on the success of environmental policy
could be social, conservation interventions are the product of human decision-making processes
and require changes in human behaviour to succeed.’ (Mascia et al. 2003: 649).
The importance of the need for agreements has been pointed out by many authors (Elbersen
and Prados 1999; Stoll-Kleemann 2001a; Cock and Fig 2002; Roigé and Estrada 2010) and
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Stemming the tide. Opposition and Conflict in the Creation of Natural Protected Areas 233
entails reaching compromises, as befits any type of negotiation. In this sense, we feel that it
is paramount that the administrations concerned should make people aware that the declaration
of a PA is good news for the inhabitants of the area and should start a dialogue phase that
aims for a mutually acceptable outcome (Redpath et al. 2013: 105). First of all, because local
people have the greatest interest in preserving a territory, which thanks to its sustainable
exploitation has been able to reach us in the right conditions. Secondly, because the creation
of a new PA should attract wealth; therefore, it should secure population since there will be
a respectful tourism bringing people who are interested in enjoying this lost natural environment
which they cannot find in urban areas. And also, because authorities will have to establish
compensatory actions for the inhabitants of the new PA, as stated by Martínez García (1997)
and Palomo et al. (2011). These elements of positive discrimination avoid greater burdens and
inequalities and should help to balance out the levies which directly or indirectly have affected
an area. As Siebert et al. indicate ‘financial compensation and incentives function as a necessary,
though clearly not sufficient, condition in this process’ (2006: 334).
Nature and Politics
The delimitation of a new territory, however, also has political implications at a micro level,
since it affects the balance between the inhabitants of the villages in question and the
administration. The declaration of a new park also implies, in greater or lesser measure, the
recruitment of new personnel, which is something which could always be seen as a strong
element of power. The recruitment of guards, of the park director, as well as other auxiliary
staff should also always be understood as a political instrument. It empowers whoever has
been recruited and increases political control over the rural area in question. One of the
potential dangers ‘lies on the distribution of power and on the lack of communication skills’
(Vasile 2008: 88). As Agrawal (2005) states, ‘a decentralized government-in-community’ will
be a good solution for equilibrated environmental governance.
Accordingly, the configuration of a new protected territory establishes a new political
environment (Vidal-González, 2014). It is a new judicial demarcation of territory (Vaccaro
and Beltrán 2007; Santamarina Campos, 2009) with conflicting interests, which need to be
handled in an appropriate and balanced manner in order not to break the fragile ‘status quo’
of the local communities.
In the case of La Puebla de San Miguel NP, the management of the new PA has substantially
modified the political balance, not only of the village but also of the county. The present ruling
party, which at the time of the declaration of the Park was in opposition, has gone from not
presenting itself at the municipal elections to having two absolute majorities and positioning
itself as a clear opposition force to the regional authority in the figure of the director of the NP.
A booming consumer society and the massive concentration of the population in urban areas
have made people aware of the importance of conserving a much-coveted nature. It has
created an awareness of the fragility of our planet and the need to preserve it for future
generations. This has provoked an important increase in the demand for PAs, which has been
responded to by the Spanish national and regional authorities.
The areas which have been the object of these figures of protection in the world of today
are usually those that, for various reasons, have remained distant from, but not divorced from,
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234 Pablo Vidal-Gonzalez & Angela Calero Valverde
the processes of industrialisation and urbanisation. These processes are in fact the reason why
they are currently attractive and eligible for conservation in their theoretical state of archaic
beauty. However, these conservationist actions are provoking a perception of exclusion of the
inhabitants, owners and users of these spaces, which have now been declared PAs. Their
rights, their traditional habits and customs have been disrupted by political decisions made by
others, generally somewhere far away from the area itself. These decisions greatly affect their
inhabitants, and may even lead to the limitation or prohibition of traditional uses. There is a
sense of differential treatment and also feelings of humiliation due to the arrogance of National
or Regional administrations. The administration, shielded by a declaration for the protection
of a common good, introduce prohibitions without, in most cases, establishing a real dialogue
and a phase of consultation with the local people.
On the other hand, it seems evident that the inhabitants of these new PAs should have all
the right to enjoy the comforts and progress of contemporary modern societies. For this
reason, it is paramount to establish a good balance between policies of conservation, in our
opinion necessary, and a distribution of wealth which does not forget those communities
which are established on the fringes of society.
The creation of a new PA should not only be the start of limitations and prohibitions, but
also the beginning of real sustainable development in the area. This makes the new figure of
protection viable and allows the local communities to live with dignity in that space, which
in some way or other, has been taken from them and become the property of humankind.
The conservation of the environment, of the territory and landscapes inherited from our
ancestors should be the force behind development in these local communities. The inhabitants
of these areas should feel fortunate, not only for the moral good that the preserving of the
environment implies, but also because that conservation, which undeniably does bring with
it sacrifices, is accompanied by corrective measures for the imbalances created. The creation
of a PA should make it clear to the population that there exists the possibility of continuing
to reside in the area, of the arrival of new jobs linked to the management of the park, and of
tourism which is respectful with the environment. As Folke argues ‘we must move away from
a way of thinking in which conservation is pitted against development to a framework of
conservation for development’ (Folke 2006).
Measures of social responsibility are also necessary as a compensation for the affected
populations, which must not feel that they have been punished, but rather benefit from these
measures. Only in this way can the management of the PA make sense and be viable in the
mid- and long-term.
In this sense, local participation and co-responsibility in the management are imperative
measures. The administrations must endeavour to maintain a frank and open dialogue in order
to involve the local communities, even though it may be easier for them to act directly without
going into processes of consultation and consensus.
Without any participation, dialogue and consultation between the local population and
politicians, new parks can be declared, but it will be very difficult to carry out sustainable
management of the area. Without the support of the population, if the declaration of protection
has been made behind their backs or in the face of direct opposition from the inhabitants of
the area, we feel that a PA lacks legitimacy and viability in the mid- and long-term. For this
reason, we should strengthen all the channels of effective dialogue, something which is
generally forgotten in these processes of protection of environmental heritage.
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Stemming the tide. Opposition and Conflict in the Creation of Natural Protected Areas 235
1. After previous regime and as part of a regionalization process, an important part of the
competences were transferred to the 17 regions and autonomous cities in Spain, including
environmental issues with the reintroduction of Democracy.
2. National Parks were managed by the State and Natural Parks, Natural Reserves, Marine Protected
Areas, Natural Monuments and Protected Landscapes were the other Protected Areas managed
by the Autonomous Regions.
3. I would like to thank my colleagues Anne-Marie Brisebarre and Guillaume Lebaudy for all
their help.
4. The names and some of the personal details of the informants who have collaborated in this
work have been changed in order to preserve anonymity and confidentiality
5. Anonimus. 2007, May 25th. Still we don’t like the Park (Web log post). Retrieved July 5 2014,
6. Comment in the newspaper Levante-EMV. 25/05/2007
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... However, Natura 2000 planning and management processes have not always had sufficient stakeholder input across the European Union (Ferranti et al., 2014;Blicharska et al., 2016). As a result, designation of PAs has sometimes been contested by local populations on governance and socioeconomic grounds that may influence depopulation of rural areas (Grodzinska-Jurczak and Cent, 2011;Vidal-González and Calero, 2014). In other cases, local populations have actively advocated for the protection of some natural areas (Pérez, 2013). ...
Protected areas (PAs) seek to conserve valuable genes, species and ecosystems by applying a legal regime that restricts some socioeconomic activities and also offers opportunities for new ones. As a result, PAs have been claimed by some authors to boost socioeconomic conditions in rural areas mainly through tourism activities. However, others have claimed that PAs contribute to rural depopulation through the worsening of living conditions of local residents because of restrictions resulting from protection regulations. Here, we applied a multiple-paired Before-After-Control-Impact (BACI) research design on a census on protected rural municipalities (cases; N = 52) versus unprotected rural municipalities (controls; N = 55) in Spain to ascertain whether PAs had positive or negative effects on rural populations using three indicators on depopulation with official municipal data from 1996 until 2019: Compound annual growth rate (CAGR); Proportion of reproductive individuals (REP); and Proportion of reproductive females (WREP). We controlled for some confounders such as biophysical characteristics and regional regulations by carefully selecting our sample of municipalities spatially. Our results show that depopulation figures were worse in cases than in controls, with some exceptions whose characteristics should be further explored. Municipalities in Sites of Community Importance (SCIs) performed best against rural depopulation and generally better than their controls, whereas municipalities in Biosphere Reserves and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) showed mostly worse figures. Our findings suggest that, while necessary and important for biodiversity, multiple-use PAs generally entailed negative consequences for Spanish rural populations that need to be offset by State's intervention.
Zusammenfassung Im Zuge des Managements von Großschutzgebieten spielen die Fragen der Akzeptanz des Schutzgebietes an sich und der Umgang mit Konflikten, die aus dem Schutzgebietsregime heraus resultieren können, eine wichtige Rolle. Der Beitrag untersucht zunächst die unterschiedliche Rolle der Akzeptanzforschung von Großschutzgebieten im deutsch- und englischsprachigen Raum. Anhand der verschiedenen Aufgaben und Handlungsfelder von Nationalparken und Biosphärenreservaten wird dann die Vielfalt möglicher Konfliktpotenziale aufgezeigt, die am Beispiel von vier Fallstudien näher beschrieben werden. Eine Medienanalyse und vertiefende Experteninterviews dienen als Grundlage für die detaillierte Untersuchung der vier Fallstudien: der Nationalpark Berchtesgaden mit einem latenten Konfliktpotenzial bei unvorhergesehenen Naturereignissen wie Borkenkäferbefall sowie die potenzielle Nationalparkregion Senne-Teutoburger Wald-Eggegebirge mit ihrem hohen Anteil an Privatwaldbesitzern und der Problematik der Zonierung, das Biosphärenreservat Bliesgau, die vor allem bereits in ihrer Entstehungsphase Konfliktpotenziale der Landnutzung sowie sich überschneidender Kompetenzbereiche aufzeigte sowie das Biosphärenreservat Pfälzerwald mit der neuen Konfliktlage der möglichen Ausweisung von Windenergieanlagen. Der Beitrag schließt mit Handlungsempfehlungen für die Raum- und Umweltplanung, den Akzeptanzbegriff insgesamt als Bestandteil eines aktiven Umfeldmanagements zu betrachten und adaptive Ansätze besser in das Schutzgebietsmanagement zu integrieren.
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In this article we present a review of the Anthropology of Conservation in Spain. During the last decades the protection of natural spaces has exponentially increased its territorial coverage worldwide. At the same time than this patrimonialization of nature was expanded, ethnographic research on protected areas have also become common, especially as part of Environmental Anthropology. The aforementioned bibliography has highlighted the multiple analytical dimensions that emerge from these new territorial policies of regulation, appropriation, and commodification of nature. In the piece, we conduct an exhaustive review of the literature produced as a consequence of this interest in our country on protected areas, underscoring its main contributions, characteristics, and weaknesses. We intent to reflect on its future, contribute to avoid repetition, and help to its development.
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The paper aims to bring into focus the issue of nature conservation in Romania and the response of local actors to top-down conservation policies. A type of conflict that arises at the fringe of Romanian protected areas, the conflict between collective owners of commons (obști) and national parks administration, will be taken as a research example. It will be shown that the top-down approach of the park administrators is based on the ideas of law and science and on the idea of state authority. This approach is strongly contested by communities, which begin to function as self-organized entities; with small steps, participation begins to function.
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Conservation and development visions in and around protected areas generate confrontation and uncertainty that damage the biodiversity and ecosystem services which maintain human well-being. To address this issue, we applied the participatory scenario planning framework to the protected area of the Do ana social-ecological system in southwestern Spain. This work explores the social perceptions regarding the conditions, trends, trade-offs, and future of ecosystem services and human well-being, and seeks management strategies for the Do ana social-ecological system and its protected areas. We found that participatory scenario planning (1) can create different visions of the future of the system addressing its uncertainty and the main ecosystem services trade-offs, and (2) can propose consensual management strategies to determine a path toward a desirable future.
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Conflicts of interest between conservation objectives and the continuation of conventional land uses have accompanied national parks in Germany since the first park’s designation in 1970. This is not surprising as most of Central Europe is densely populated and landscapes have been used intensively for agriculture, forestry, resource extraction, and recreational purposes over several centuries. Hence, unaltered landscapes and unimpaired wilderness hardly exist. These combined features distinguish German national parks from their counterparts in the Americas, Africa or Asia. Against this background, parks-people relationships have occupied researchers in Germany for more than twenty years. Whereas international research has focused mostly on testing various social theories to explain resistance among locals, research in Germany has for many years focused on a more practitioner-oriented approach in order to solve most pressing conflicts that arose after national park designations. This paper combines two independent case studies from Harz and Bayerischer Wald National Parks in order to illustrate the setting of parks-people research in Germany and to identify links to approaches used in other countries. In Harz National Park, the case study (n = 205) focused on local communities in general, whereas the Bayerischer Wald study (n = 197) put an emphasis on tourism operators as a potential ally for park managers. Results proved that the reasons to support or object protected areas are manifold, but in both cases could be associated with national park management policies (e.g. forest management) that contradicted the locals’ traditional attitudes and values. This general dissent is fostered by a lack of clear communication with relevant stakeholder groups and a lack of participation. Thus, the paper also provides suggestions that could help to enhance park–people relationships not only in a German, but also an international context.
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RESUMEN En el marco de la investigación etnobotánica desarrollada en el poniente granadino, se ha realizado un estudio sobre la toponimia de la comarca con atención a los apelativos de origen vegetal (fitotopónimos y sinfitotopónimos). La información —obtenida de la Gerencia Territorial del Catastro de Granada, de la Junta de Andalucía y de nuestro tra-bajo de campo— se ha incluido en una base de datos con el programa Microsoft Excell®. Un total de 98 especies vegetales se encuentran representadas en la toponimia local, dando nombre a 593 lugares del territorio. Se aportan comentarios sobre el significado ecológico, paleofitogeográfico y etnobotánico de las especies reflejadas en la toponimia. SUMMARY Within the framework of a research project on the ethnobotany of the western section of the province of Granada, in southern Spain, a detailed study was made of place names derived from names related to plants (phytotoponyms and synphytotoponyms). The information —gathered from the Territorial Land Registry of Granada, the Regional Government of Andalusia and field work— has been included in a database written with the Microsoft Excel program. References to a total of 98 plant species were found in as many as 593 place names of the area. The authors comment on the environmental, paleophytogeographic and ethnobotanical significance of the species represented in the place names.
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European countries, including Germany, have experienced opposition to the designation of protected areas from local populations, thus thwarting the efforts of nature conservation agencies. Germany and other countries can learn from development cooperation agencies that have successfully implemented biodiversity initiatives in developing countries using participatory or inclusive measures.
Since 2003, there has been progress in global policy towards changing conservation from a model that often excluded peoples to a “new paradigm” that respects human rights and recognises that local communities are the cornerstone of healthy ecosystems. Nevertheless, the implementation of these decisions has been very patchy. In order to remedy that, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has established the Whakatane Mechanism, an initiative to assess respect for human rights in protected areas in order to address conflicts between management authorities and indigenous peoples.
In this article the authors hope to re-animate Environmental Sociology, a crucial and neglected area within our discipline. It examines the transformation of the South African National Parks from an institution of colonial conservation which served white minority interests to a community based model of conservation which attempts to link the protection of biodiversity to human needs. It raises questions about whether this transformation involves fundamental change or a shallow restructuring.
This book shows how an understanding of culture can throw light on the way environmental issues are perceived and interpreted, both by local communities and within the contemporary global arena. Taking an anthropological approach the author examines the relationship between human culture and human ecology, and considers how a cultural approach to the study of environmental issues differs from other established approaches in social science. This book demonstrates the contribution of social and cultural anthropology to the environmental debate.
This paper examines how and for what reasons rural residents come to care about the environment. Focusing on Kumaon, India, it explores the deep and durable relationship between government and subjectivity and shows how regulatory strategies associated with and resulting from community decision making help transform those who participate in government. Using evidence drawn from the archival record and fieldwork conducted over two time periods, it analyzes the extent to which varying levels of involvement in institutional regimes of environmental regulation facilitate new ways of understanding the environment. On the basis of this analysis, it outlines a framework of understanding that permits the joint consideration of the technologies of power and self that are responsible for the emergence of new political subjects.