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They simply cannot control what happens in the forests at all times. For both campesinos

and loggers, there is little risk in violating the law.

The Villa Santa and Guadalupe Cooperatives work on national forest land, which

is administered by AFE/COHDEFOR. They must depend a great deal on

AFE/COHDEFOR for support and approval for all their activities in the forest. Neither

of these groups had secure tenure to their land when the cooperatives were founded, but

over time they have strengthened their claims to these lands. When the residents of Villa

Santa prevented a logging company from entering their forests, the community had no

legal claim to the land. Through collective action and de facto possession they were able

to gain user’s rights over the forest. After forming the cooperative, they had no guarantee

from COHDEFOR that the forest would never be harvested by or sold to outside groups,

but the cooperative has defended its forest from loggers, cattle ranchers, and migrant

farmers. Approaching Villa Santa northbound from the Jamastran Valley, the hills

surrounding the Villa Santa forest are largely treeless and covered by cornfields, pasture,

and isolated fragments of forest. The transition from these deforested hills to the forest

managed by the cooperative is abrupt. Continuing north after passing through Villa Santa

one observes another abrupt change when leaving the management area of the

cooperative (Figure 4). The lands surrounding the Villa Santa forest were once national

forest, but migrant farmers and ranchers cleared the forest to establish claims to the land

by “improvements.” Later they were able to obtain titles through the land titling program

in the early 1990s. This pattern of clearing land to obtain legal tenure has also been

observed in the buffer and nuclear zones of the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve in the La

Moskitia region of Honduras (Richards, 1996). It was fortunate that the cooperative

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