Evaluating the sustainability of conservation and development strategies: The case of management units for wildlife conservation in Tabasco, Mexico

J Environ Manage. 2019 Oct 15;248:109260. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2019.109260. Epub 2019 Jul 19.


Strategies that integrate conservation and development objectives are increasingly common, albeit still controversial, at the global scale. There are information gaps regarding their overall reach and sustainability through an integral assessment approach. Therefore, the objectives of this study were: 1) to design a Methodological Framework of Sustainability Evaluation (MFSE) that could be applied to the assessment of conservation and development strategies; and 2) to apply this MFSE in an empirical exercise with management units for wildlife conservation (UMAs, by its Spanish acronym), a major environmental policy in Mexico. The UMAs confer legal rights to landowners for the exploitation of wildlife and protection of ecosystems. The MFSE had five hierarchical levels (three sustainability dimensions, general and specific criteria, indicators and metrics), which are grouped into a Sustainability Index (SI). Data was collected from official databases, structured interviews with official managers and landowners, and field observations in six UMAs in Tabasco, Mexico. According to the findings, the SI in the social dimension showed the highest values, followed by the environmental and economic dimensions. The key aspects for sustainability in the six UMAs are: 1) local governance norms, 2) active participation and interinstitutional linkage, 3) capacity for initial economic investment and long-term vision and 4) project liability and appropriation from their design. Free-ranging and intensive UMAs pose different objectives, since the former are focused on the management and conservation of ecosystems where the species of interest are found, while the latter are focused on species-based management, mostly those of economic interest. For this reason, they may require separate governmental appraisal as different management systems.

Keywords: Biodiversity conservation; Co-management; Community-based resource management; Indicators; Sustainability; Wildlife use.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Wild
  • Biodiversity
  • Conservation of Natural Resources*
  • Ecosystem*
  • Mexico