Building an inclusive land management and conservation decision-making system with local stakeholders of Ulaan Taiga Special Protected Area in Mongolia
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Environmental degradation and its management are pressing issues worldwide, especially in developing countries. Mongolia is a nomadic culture country with publicly owned land grazed by privately owned herds of domestic animals experiencing intense land degradation (Ministry of Environment and Tourism of Mongolia, 2018). The Eurocentric system (Koobak et al., 2021) Western Science-Based Ecological Knowledge (WSEK) (Studley, 1998) was introduced first by communism, then global North aid programs. Mongolian government fully adopted WSEK methods despite the reality that people of Mongolia still utilize Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) (Berkes, 2012; Jamsranjav et al., 2019). Gradually the disconnect between the stakeholders increased over the last 100 years. Climate change, socioeconomic pressures on publicly owned land, and multiple stakeholders who practice different decision-making systems call for collaborative facilitation and interventions. The purpose of this study is to examine the following two major points: 1. The possibility of addressing the land degradation issues by integrating TEK and WSEK through Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) facilitations in the Darhad Valley, Mongolia (2014-2020). 2. The perceptions of buffer zone communities of Ulaan Taiga Special Protected Area (UTSPA) regarding their ability to manage their land and the ecosystem services it provides. Guidance and participation of locals and advisory board across all steps in the research process (Hallett et al., 2017; Stanton, 2014), and application of a CBPR framework help rebalance the power dynamics among the stakeholders (Coombe et al., 2020a) and bring shared ownership (D'Alonzo, 2010) and trust (P. R. Lachapelle & McCool, 2012) to decision-making. Our team concluded that integrated epistemologies offer added strength and innovation in addressing some of the complex challenges. We found that the 'twin ride' (integration) of WSEK and TEK complement each other (Maweu, 2011). CBPR provides a framework to facilitate collaboration, apply theory to practice in culturally and epistemologically appropriate ways specific to the host community (Stanton et al., 2020), and help overcome various barriers such as loss of trust, institutional differences, and give time to collectively develop shared goals (P. R. Lachapelle et al., 2003). CBPR is a complicated but rewarding, potentially healing process (Stanton, 2014a; Waddell et al., 2020).