From a Top-Down Perspective to Collaborative Management: The Kawésqar People’s Role in their National Park and Reserve

32 Pages Posted: 6 May 2022

Date Written: April 12, 2022


This article analyzes the case of the Kawésqar National Park and Reserve, both protected areas in Chile that also coincide with Indigenous territories of the last Kawésqar Indigenous communities. This Chilean case is relevant for community conservation analysis because of the collision of interests between administrative agencies, Indigenous communities, and aquaculture industries, from which broader lessons are distilled to enhance co-management approaches toward conservation. The article identifies the Chilean government’s flawed administrative decisions on the protection mechanisms of the area, where interests range from aquaculture projects pushing for fewer environmental restrictions to the Indigenous communities and biodiversity that have been adversely affected by these projects. Indigenous communities are pushing back to assert effective participation in the co-management of the Kawésqar Reserve and its conservation, while the Chilean government has partially decided to grant them certain recognition over the management of the Kawésqar Park. This article argues that for an effective protection of the land and sea, Indigenous communities must have a stronger position in decision-making regarding land and marine use in protected areas. To accomplish this, the article offers a critical analysis of the public policies developed by the Chilean government about the management of the protected areas regarding Indigenous communities, and proposes moving from a top-down approach to a collaborative governance and management approach. This analysis builds upon the vast literature on community conservation approaches, and specifically on collaborative conservation through Indigenous governance. Through this lens I distill proposals for an effective community conservation approach, and specifically for a collaborative management with the Kawésqar people, such as their recognition and inclusion in the co-management of the protected areas and hybrid forms of environmental governance, among other recommendations.

Keywords: environmental law, Chile, indigenous communities, community conservation, collaborative governance, marine space, conservation, biodiversity, traditional knowledge, indigenous

Suggested Citation

Luengo-Troncoso, Sebastián, From a Top-Down Perspective to Collaborative Management: The Kawésqar People’s Role in their National Park and Reserve (April 12, 2022). McGill Journal of Sustainable Development Law, Vol. 18, No. 1, 2022, Available at SSRN:

Sebastián Luengo-Troncoso (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

E. B. Williams Library | Office 301 East
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