The University of Arizona

Conservation narratives and conflicts over protected areas in post-socialist Romania

Marie Louise Aastrup


Environmental protection is never a controversy-free endeavor. Conflicts arise over land ownership, use, and access. Political ecologists have paid extensive attention to protected areas, especially in relation to power, rights, and marginalized peoples. This article draws on political ecology to examine a new proposed national park in the context of post-communism and neoliberalization in Romania. Using mixed-methods (semi-structured interviews, questionnaires, and participant observation), this research investigates conservation narratives as articulated by different actors (environmental non-governmental organizations, local decision-makers, and local community members) with various levels of involvement in the proposed national park. Three chief narratives can be observed pertaining to tourism, restrictions, and deforestation. These narratives are embedded in the history and socio-economic context of the area, but also reveal the agendas of different actors regarding landscape values. Assessing these narratives, this research reveals how actors position themselves and the points of contention among the different actors in the brewing conflict that the national park represents.

Keywords: Political ecology, conservation, conflict, power

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