Protected area management and environmental decision-making : the case of Dlinza Forest Nature Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal.
Colonial conservation emerged as colonial conservationists perceived the threat of deforestation, climatic change and famine. The sense that there were limits to nature's capacity to meet human demands, led to colonial conservationism which portrayed nature as separated from human life. Protected areas (PA's), both forest and game reserves, were created that excluded local people in terms of both access and management. In South Africa the National Forests Act 84 of 1998 has created new conditions in which there is a greater opportunity for communities to benefit from indigenous forests, which apart from their other uses are a valuable resource from the point of view of ecotourism. This study thus seeks to assess moves from exclusivist to community based forms of environmental decision-making (EDM) at Dlinza Forest Nature Reserve. This study provides an example of an ecotourism project started during the democratic period in South Africa and at the height of the global move to community conservation. First however it traces the management history of the forest in order to assess change in the management style over time. The study investigates rural people's attitudes towards the forest and it was found that although the forest was preserved for many years, the rural people still feel much attached to it as a result of the beliefs they have about it. The study contrasts different visions of the forest in terms of competing use and non-use values, and demonstrates that each group exercised its will and attempted to display "ownership" of the forest through a number of activities undertaken at the forest. An analysis of the public participation followed in terms of the ecotourism project was undertaken to determine the extent to which the rural community was involved. Theoretical models of environmental decision-making were applied in order to identify the mode of decisionmaking used historically and in the present. The results of the study show that poor rural people are still marginalized in EDM despite the new philosophies of PA management and the democratising shifts taking place in the country. Resistance to the policies and regulations of the reserve has been observed and this may lead to severe degradation of the resources that the reserve is meant to protect. The study thus recommends strengthening locally based EDM via partnerships as partnerships do not only provide relief for the consequences of conflict, they also strive for a win-win situation. The study concluded that greater involvement of the rural community requires a change in the mindset of conservation authorities, in particular with regard to the issue of representivity in EDM.