Although one finds a disproportionate presence of the very poor at the park edge today, more of their very poor counterparts, who lived further away, were forced to sell or give up their land as well, said Alix-Garcia.
"Apparently the park provides a source of insurance; they can hunt, or sell firewood or thatch from the park," she said. "It's misleading. If you look, you see more poor people living near the park. But when you look at the change in assets, you see that the poor people who live next to the park have lost less than poor people who live farther away."
And that suggests that the park is unlikely to explain the increased poverty among its close neighbors.
"Impressions based on one metric at one scale may be misleading, because other factors may be far more significant over broader geographic and temporal scales," said Baerwald. "Research like this that brings together insights from different disciplines provides valuable new insights that can improve policies and management approaches and enhance human well-being."
Parks, landscapes, societies and economies vary widely, and so it's hard to know how well the results will generalize, Naughton admitted. But she said the study was one of the first to look at parks and poverty over the long term, and the results do undermine the conventional wisdom--that national parks are to blame for the poverty found at their borders.
"If you are concerned about the welfare of the people who live around parks, don't assume that it is the park that is trapping them in poverty. Instead of only looking at the park, turn around and look in the other direction. Land is becoming scarce and most public forests have been cleared or privatized. There
|Contact: Bobbie Mixon|
National Science Foundation