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Parks not burdening poor neighbors, study says

Concerns about conservation eased by poverty data from Costa Rica, Thailand

In a new take on a fierce debate, researchers say that protecting wildlands in two countries has not worsened the overall fates of impoverished people living on park margins. If the finding holds elsewhere, the research could ease concerns that land conservation worsens poverty by limiting access to natural resources and potential farmland.

Protected lands in Costa Rica and Thailand look as if they have even brought modest improvements to the lives of poor neighbors, says study coauthor Paul J. Ferraro, an economist at the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University in Atlanta.

The question of whether protecting natural areas ends up hurting people who live nearby is “arguably the most controversial debate in conservation policy,” Ferraro says.

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