ENV 685b () / 2023-2024

Engaging Landholders and Communities in Conserving and Restoring Tropical Forest Landscapes

Credits: 3

Spring 2024: M,W, 10:30-11:50, Marsh Rotunda


The course is limited to 18 students. To apply, please fill out this brief Qualtrics survey. Application deadline is 5pm, Monday, December 18. We will send out decisions on Friday, December 22.

The optional field trip is limited to between 10-12 students. We will have a separate application for the field trip at the start of the semester.

Please direct any questions to eva.garen@yale.edu about the course or application process.

The design and implementation of sustainable land management strategies in tropical forest landscapes must effectively involve the people and communities who manage and govern these regions. In many cases, however, practitioners design projects that focus on technical solutions only and ignore people altogether, or base their projects upon incorrect assumptions about the people at the heart of their interventions. These trends ultimately lead to project failure and can cause a host of adverse unintended consequences that further exacerbate the problems that practitioners were trying to resolve. This pattern is particularly prevalent with recent pledges by global organizations and national governments to plant trillions of trees around the globe in an effort to address the adverse effects of climate change (see The Bonn Challenge and Trillion Trees). While these initiatives are largely well-intended, they largely ignore the socio-cultural and political complexities of the landscapes where the trees would be planted, including whether landholders already plant or protect trees and if they want to increase this practice and how, which species they want to plant or protect and how, and the effects of tree planting on land tenure systems, traditional livelihood strategies and gender dynamics. Little attention is also given to examining who removed the trees from the landscape and why, and whether tree planting is an appropriate solution. This course aims to provide forestry and land conservation students with the tools to think critically about the socio-cultural and political complexities of tropical forest landscapes and to more effectively engage landholders and communities in land management interventions. The course draws upon theoretical considerations in the social sciences literature and the applied experiences of the Environmental Leadership & Training Initiative (ELTI), a Center & Program of YSE focused on capacity development in tropical forest landscapes. ELTI staff and affiliates have 16 years of experience developing the capacity of people who manage and govern tropical forest landscapes to implement land management strategies that restore and protect tree and forest cover while supporting livelihoods. The program has a diverse collection of applied case studies featuring a range of strategies and approaches that practitioners use to engage landholders and communities on these themes. The course is designed to link YSE students to ELTI team members so they can learn directly from their experiences in a variety of contexts. Students will also interact with selected participants of ELTI’s yearlong online certificate program, Tropical Forest Landscapes: Conservation, Restoration & Sustainable Use, who are practitioners developing applied conservation and restoration projects around the globe.