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Protected Areas and Property Rights

Democratizing Eminent Domain in East Africa

Executive Summary

Protected areas are a traditional means for pursuing wildlife management and have become increasingly central to conservation strategies in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. In East Africa, the future of biodiversity rests largely on the security and sustainability of the protected estate. Government degazettement (the transfer of land out of the protected estate into other public uses or into the private domain) and private challenges to the public exercise of eminent domain are growing threats to protected areas in East Africa.

Considerable attention has focused on whether or not to degazette protected areas. Less attention has focused on the procedures by which land is acquired and protected areas are established. When governments acquire private property in a compulsory manner, transfer land from the private to the public domain, and place public land into protected areas they must balance the public good of park conservation with the public good of secure property rights. This report argues that protected areas will be secure when codified procedures for acquiring land and establishing parks are implemented and enforced. Further, the public will accept these designations as legitimate when they have been established through democratic (i.e., transparent, inclusive, accountable) processes.

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