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Assistant Professor Tanya Hayes focuses research on property rights, conservation and forest management

2010 Tanya Hayes

Tanya Hayes teaches environmental studies in Arts and Sciences.

Chris Joseph Taylor

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The genesis of Tanya Hayes’ journey to Río Plátano, Honduras, can be traced to the heartland of America: Bloomington, Ind. It was there, at Indiana University, while enrolled in a joint PhD program with the School of Public and Environmental Affairs and Political Science, that she was mentored by Dr. Elinor Ostrom, Nobel Prize winner in economics.

Under the tutelage of Ostrom, Hayes became particularly interested in community management of forests and agricultural lands. When she was looking for a project for her master’s thesis, she learned about agricultural expansion— deforestation caused by the migration of farmers and ranchers—in Río Plátano, a remote region of Honduras.

“My thesis looked at why colonists [farmers and ranchers] were moving to the region and the impact that various land-use and conservation policies had on supporting or thwarting this immigration,” says Hayes, an assistant professor of environmental studies in the College of Arts and Sciences.

After completing her master’s, Hayes expanded her research for her doctoral dissertation. “I began to look at property rights and management policies in Río Plátano and compared these to property rights and policies for forest management in a neighboring reserve, Bosawas, Nicaragua,” she says.

In contrast to Río Plátano, where the Honduran Ministry of Forestry held all land rights and management rights to the reserve, in Bosawas the indigenous residents went through a long participatory planning process by which they eventually obtained the communal title to their territories in the reserve and the sole right to make management decisions regarding forest and land use.

“My investigation looked at if these different management processes and policies made a difference in controlling agricultural expansion and how they impacted local governance by the indigenous residents,” she says.

Hayes began the study in 2001 and finished the project in 2007. Her primary findings show that the indigenous residents who hold communal tenure in Bosawas are better able to control agricultural expansion and prevent deforestation than the indigenous residents who live in a governmentmanaged reserve at Río Plátano.

One of the biggest challenges to the research was accessibility. To reach Río Plátano, she had to first board a small plane and then complete the second leg of the journey by dugout canoe.

Hayes plans to continue conducting applied research and incorporating the lessons learned into the classroom. She is currently involved in a research project with a set of NGOs in Colombia that looks at conservation of forests on the lands of poor peasant farmers in the East Andes.

—Chelan David



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