Course:FRST370/The impact of public and private protected areas on the land rights of the Mapuche People of the Patagonia region of Chile

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Within the Patagonia region of Southern Chile exists two types of protected areas, private protected areas owned by individuals, NGOs, and other private entities and public protected areas owned by the Chilean state. Additionally, this region has several communities of Mapuche people, an Indigenous people who have lived in the region since time immemorial, struggling to have their rights to land and forests recognized and implemented by the state. These private and public protected areas have a variety of impacts on the Mapuche people and their ability to exercise customary rights. Public protected areas are very restrictive regarding the types of activities that can occur within their boundaries including the exercise of Mapuche cultural and subsistence practices, however, new public protected areas have not been established recently. Private protected areas are a new form of land tenure that can be purchased by private entities to achieve conservation goals or stewardship goals. Because private protected areas are owned by a variety of entities, they have different rules and goals, therefore, impacting the Mapuche people in different ways than public protected areas. There is a protected area owned by a collective of Mapuche communities known as Mapu Lahual which may serve as an example for future community forest initiatives to support greater Mapuche participation and recognition in the region.



The Mapuche people have had traditional territory since time immemorial in the southern regions of present-day Chile and Argentina (Meza, 2009). This case studies focuses on Mapuche communities living in Chilean controlled regions.


Chile was colonized by Spanish conquistadors between 1540 and 1818. The Mapuche people were stewards of their lands long before European colonization. In 1641, the Quillin treaty that recognized the autonomy of the Mapuche was signed with Spain. However, when the Chilean and Argentinian states gained national independence against Royalist Spain, the new countries claimed Indigenous land (claiming terra nullius) and revoked the treaty. This led to military conflict since the Mapuche people tried to continue to be an autonomous nation by maintaining their religion, traditional language, and social-political structure. Moreover, the Chilean (and Argentinian) nation continued to annex and exploit resources such as minerals from the Mapuche and ignored the tribe’s sovereignty (Akhtar, 2013).

The Mapuche lands gradually became alienated. In the 1860s, the state allocated lands to the Mapuche that could be used, but not owned. However, in the 1900s, the Mapuche were displaced to ‘reducciones’ by European immigrants. In 1927, the Mapuche families gained subdivided community lands and purchased lands due to the lapse in renewal of land inalienability. Two years later, communal reserves were created (títulos de merced) that were conceded to the tribe but were on infertile lands, and the Indigenous people had restricted access. In 1972 the Popular Unity government of Salvador Allende was elected and established Law 17.729, which recognized the history and distinctive culture of the Mapuche, and the Directorate of Indian Affairs, both of which were advantageous to the Mapuche. Allende's government recognized the Mapuche as owners of their traditional territory and began the process of returning traditional land that had been purchased by wealthy landowners.

Unfortunately, in 1973, General Augusto Pinochet led a military coup d'état to overthrow President Salvador Allende. Allende and thousands of his supporters were killed, tortured, or "disappeared" within a few years including many Mapuche. Additionally, Pinochet and the military junta quickly enacted several legislative amendments that negatively impacted the Mapuche, including reversing the progress made by law 17.729 and appropriating the lands once again.(Akhtar, 2013).

Furthermore, the junta imposed more policies to disempower the Mapuche too. In 1979, law 2568 forcefully took the land granted by the previous government, and the ‘Reducciones’ communal land, then divided this land into smaller private lands which were claimed by wealthy non-indigenous Chilean farmers. The land of the Mapuche was never returned, which led to increasing protests and the imposition of Decree 18,134, an anti-terrorism law, in 1984 in order to suspend the due process rights of the Mapuche and allowed the junta to use military courts to prosecute Mapuche (and non-indigenous) civilians. The military dictatorship, led by Pinochet lasted for 16 years. However, after the return to democracy in 1989, the Nueva Imperial Accords were signed by the newly-elected President Aylwin. The goal of the Accords was to establish principles of mutual recognition between the Indigenous peoples in Chile and the Chilean state. Subsequently, ‘Ley Indigena’ created a (limited) legal framework for the Indigenous communities to seek recognition of their rights and initiated a Public Record of Indigenous Lands and Waters in 1993 (Akhtar, 2013).

Tenure arrangements

Tenure arrangements. Describe the nature of the tenure: freehold or forest management agreement/arrangements, duration, etc.

Public Protected Areas: State owned properties, administered by the Chilean Forestry Service (CONAF), that cannot be leased or purchased without changes to legislation (Pauchard & Villarroel, 2002).

Distribution of Protected Areas in Chile

Private protected areas: owned by private entities (individuals, NGOs, or other private entity) through a freehold tenure. These areas have a variety of goals and rules which are decided by the owner(s) with little regulation or oversight from the State (Meza, 2009).

The Rights of Stakeholders in Public Protected Areas
Rights Government Local Mapuche People Private Land Owners
Access Yes Customary (Not recognized) No
Withdrawal/Use Yes Customary (Not recognized) No
Exclusion Yes Customary (Not recognized) No
Management Yes Customary (Not recognized) No
Alienation Yes No No
Duration Unlimited Unlimited Customary (Not recognized) No
Bequeathe N/A Customary (Not recognized) No
Extinguishability N/A No No
The Rights of Stakeholders in Private Protected Areas
Bundle of Rights Government Local Mapuche People Private Land Owners
Access No Rarely (exceptions depend on relationship with land owner) Yes
Withdrawal/Use No Rarely (exceptions depend on relationship with land owner) Yes
Exclusion No Customary (Not recognized) Yes
Management No Customary (Not recognized) Yes
Alienation No No Yes
Duration Unlimited (Under certain circumstances the land can be expropriated) Unlimited Customary (Not recognized) Unlimited
Bequeathe N/A Customary (Not recognized) Yes
Extinguishability N/A No Yes

Administrative arrangements

Administrative arrangements. Describe the management authority and the reporting system.

Map of Mapu Lahual

Public Protected Areas: The public protected areas are administered by the Chilean Forest Service (CONAF) and managed through the national public system of protected areas (SNASPE). CONAF is not considered a major component of the national strategy to manage resources and has an inadequate budget to improve, expand, control, and administer public protected areas. Additionally, an important mandate for CONAF is to develop management plans for public protected areas. However, many public protected areas have obsolete or incomplete management plans (Pauchard & Villarroel, 2002).

Private Protected Areas: Private protected areas are entirely controlled by their owners once purchased with few obligations to the Chilean state (e.g. CONAF). The owners may develop their own goals, plans, and rules for their areas to meet personal interests (Pauchard & Villarroel, 2002). As a result, each private protected area has different governance structures. Two examples include:

  1. Mapu Lahual (Meza, 2009; Mühlen, 2020) - A collection of six protected areas that cover approximately 1000 hectares.
    • Owners: Indigenous organization called Mapu Lahual and partially owned (and supported) by WWF.
    • Governance: Decisions made by existing community leaders and conservation activities initiated by grassroots organizations (with support from WWF).
    • Goal: Intended to diversify the local economy through tourism and conservation to help the many people living in poverty.
  2. Tantauco Park (Meza, 2009) - 130,000 hectare private protected area on Chiloe island.
    • Owner: Sebastián Piñera (the current Chilean president).
    • Governance: Piñera can make any decision he wants.
    • (Publicly stated) Goal: Conservation.
    • (Suspected) Goal: Profit from ecotourism and investment in land.

Affected Stakeholders

Mapuche people: Mapuche people’s traditional lands were forcefully taken by the government and private investors, and their customary rights were not accepted. Moreover, since the protected areas are located in the traditional lands, the Mapuche people are being restricted from accessing their forest which they rely on culturally, socially, and economically. Moreover, their knowledge of managing and harvesting edible plants is being lost due to the lack of access to plants and forests. An example of how they rely on substances in the Forest are Pewn (Araucaria araucana) trees, which is an endangered endemic species. It is important for their culture, in conservation, for consumption, trade, and feeding livestock. The Mapuche people have knowledge in managing and sustainably harvesting the seeds from the pewens (Herrmann, 2005). However, the lack of public funding and refusal of current owners to sell land makes it hard to regain their traditional land (Bauer, 2016).

Local Farmers: Local farmers sustain their daily lives and rely economically on their small scale farming. However, they are relatively poor and their lands are bought by plantation companies or are suffering from water shortage, increased farming cost, and plummeted production (Anderson, 2015).

Interested Outside Stakeholders

The Government of Chile: The government of Chile implements economic policies by improving productivity and agricultural output, and to improve the conservation of the country. They do so by changing land tenures from individuals and Indigenous people to new owners or to companies or collectives (Bauer, 2016), promoting free markets and private enterprises to develop rural areas and increase profits (Neoliberal economic policies). These impact Indigenous landholdings and encourage industrial development and resource extraction (Bauer, 2016). The government also set land taxation to promote productive land use (Bauer, 2016). For conservation, the government banned tree felling of Araucaria araucana trees and protected them as a national monument (Hermann, 2005) and made the State Protected Forest Area System. Moreover, they lack communication with local communities and do not recognize the legal tenure rights of the Mapuche (Bugueno, 2017) and do not incorporate the Mapuche’s knowledge when managing indigenous territories (ex, Pewen trees). However, they are increasingly trying to help regain the Mapuche lands which are included in Nueva Imperial Accords and other legal frameworks (Akhtar, 2013).

Chilean Forestry Service (CONAF): CONAF is a private Chilean non-profit organization that works on developing sustainable management practices for Chile’s forest resources and they represent the state for decisions regarding public protected areas.

Individual Owners of Private Protected Areas: Private protected area owners are those who individually own and control some of the Mapuche lands. They own the land but aren’t affected by the activities done in the forest and works outside the protected areas, thus do not rely on the land.

Industrial Tree Plantation Companies and Timber Companies: The industrial tree plantation companies and timber companies make money off the Mapuche’s land resources such as pine (pinus radiata), and eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globus), and Pewen (Araucaria araucana) (Anderson, 2015; Hermann, 2005). They need highly skilled workers, which leads to fewer opportunities for the rural and indigenous people and pushes them out of the area through buying them out of land, and lack of jobs (Barreau, 2016). Moreover, they have degraded the forests which leads to the forest needing substitutions of exotic species or to be modified to pasture lands (Hermann, 2005).

The National Indigenous Development Corporation (CONADI): CONADI’s objectives are to promote, coordinate, and implement policies that support the Chilean Indigenous people. However, their power is limited due to insufficient funding (Anderson, 2015).

International NGOs (ex, WWF, Patagonia Land Trust, Conservation Land Trust): The international NGOs help conserve the natural areas as well as to improve the economy of the communities, and they own the majority of the private protected areas in Chile (Meza, 2009).

Mapu Lahual: Mapu Lahual is an indigenous organization that has a small level of Mapuche involvement. They help poor people by diversifying the local economy through tourism and conservation. Also, they own six protected areas of 1000 hectares and are supported by WWF (Meza, 2009).


A goal of the Mapuche peoples is to have the Chilean government acknowledge the rights the Indigenous people have, and to respect the following rights.

  • Category I: The Concept of Indigenous Peoples’ Rights to Land, Territories and Natural Resources
  • Category II: The Right to Ownership and Possession of Land
  • Category III: The Right to Protection of Land and Land Rights under Customary Tenure Systems
  • Category IV: The Right to Protection Against the Loss of Land (Mühlen, 2020)

While the achievements made by the National Indigenous Development Corporation (CONADI) to have the Mapuche recognized by government, the little to no follow up and the blatant and consistent preference to given monetary gain and economic value. (Anderson, 2015) The Mapu Lahual, when their rights were acknowledged and they were allowed to manage conservation and forest exports, the community poverty rates lowered. (Meza, 2009)

However, for the Mapuche without their rights acknowledged and the lack of public funding, there’s massive difficulty in regaining traditional territories (Bauer, 2016).

Despite being signatory to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and the ILO convention C169 - Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989 (No. 169) (International Labour Organization, 2017), Chile has not made significant advances to clearly protect Indigenous rights to lands, territories, and resources in law. The Chilean state has continued to use tactics of military repression to control protests and activism by Mapuche people seeking to assert their customary rights. Given the growing international recognition of the rights of Indigenous peoples and the responsibilities of states to implement and affirm these rights (e.g. global Indigenous activism, UNDRIP, Canada's commitments to Reconciliation, etc.), Chile's legal framework for implementing and recognizing Mapuche rights is relatively limited (Akhtar, 2013).

Assessment: Relative Power and Influence of Stakeholders

High Importance, Low Influence High Importance, High Influence
  • Mapuche People
  • Local Farmers
  • Mapuche Communities that partially own Mapu Lahual
  • Chilean Forestry Service (CONAF)
Low Importance, Low Influence Low Importance, High Influence
  • Researchers
  • Journalists
  • Tourists
  • NGOs (WWF, TNC, etc.)
  • Wealthy owners of private protected areas

Mapuche People: The Mapuche people generally have low influence due to non-recognition of their customary rights by the Chilean State. However, because most of the protected areas (public and private) in Chile are located in the southern regions, many of the protected areas overlap with the territory of the Mapuche people who are significantly affected by changes in land-use and resource accessibility in the region; this makes Mapuche people very important when decisions are made regarding their territory. Additionally, Mapuche people have been heavily impacted by violent disputes regarding land dispossession when they have been excluded from their traditional territory by protected areas (and other reasons).

Mapuche Communities that partially own Mapu Lahual: The Mapuche communities who partially own Mapu Lahual have high importance for the same reasons as other Mapuche people. However, these communities have high influence (in their protected area) because they have freehold tenure over the land and can development management practices and rules for the protected areas that meet the needs of their communities.

Local Farmers: The local farmers who base their livelihood on crops grown near protected areas and on Mapuche territory would be impacted by any changes to the land tenure that affect their ability to support their livelihood via farming. However, the farmers do not have the same customary rights to the land as the Mapuche. Small-scale farmers have little political influence, although, some farmers are wealthy and "purchased" or control Mapuche land that was expropriated by previous governments and dictators.

CONAF: CONAF is very important because it is the agency that represents the Chilean state in decisions regarding public protected areas. As a representative of the State, CONAF has high influence over the establishment and control of public protected areas.

NGOs: NGOs have high influence but low importance because they own and control some of the private protected areas (and exercise the associated rights) but many of them are composed of non-local people whose livelihoods are not impacted by the activities within protected areas.

Wealthy owners of private protected area: Wealthy owners of private protected areas have high influence because they own and control some of the private protected areas (and exercise the associated rights). Although, these wealthy owners have low importance because many of them are not local people and established their wealth (and lavish lifestyles) prior to purchasing the freehold tenure to establish private protected areas. Their livelihoods are often dependent on business ventures outside of the private protected areas and are generally unaffected by activities within the park.

Researchers, Journalists, and Tourists: All have low importance and low influence because their livelihoods are not directly affected by activities within the protected areas and they do not own or control any of the protected areas.


Recommendations start with adhering to the pre-existing policy that covers the following four main objectives

-       (a) To establish public agencies consistent with the strategic importance of the forest sector for Chile, to implement a sustainable forest development;

-       (b) To promote silviculture, industries and an integral use of forest resources to increase overall productivity and the provision of goods and services for economic development;

-       (c) To develop the necessary conditions and instruments so that forest development diminishes technological and social gaps, improves life conditions of workers, and respects cultures and traditions of small land-owners and indigenous communities, and;

-       (d) To conserve and increase the public forest heritage and to restore and protect forest resources. (Donoso, 2020)

In the Jozani forests of Zanzibar, Menzies notes that by restricting access or the full exclusion of surrounding communities, State managed forests had a direct influence on poverty rates. (Menzies, 2007) Anderson notes a similar trend in Chile, linking the loss of traditional territories to monoculture tree plantations pushing the Mapuche to urbanization (Anderson, 2015)

“Community- based resource management has been promoted as a strategy that can foster economic development by restoring or securing access to resources without compromising environmental values.” (Menzies, 2007)

By working with local communities and grass-roots organizations in forest management, and begin long-term restoration of the land. By relying less on short rotation mono cultures, and prioritizing community health above profit. (Anderson, 2015)


Akhtar, Z. (2013). Mapuche Land Claims: Environmental Protest, Legal Discrimination and Customary Rights. International Journal on Minority and Group Rights, 20(4), 551–576.

Anderson K., Lawrence D., Zavaleta J., Guariguata M. R. (2015) More Trees, More Poverty? The Socioeconomic Effects of Tree Plantations in Chile, 2001-2011. Springer Science+Business Media. New York.

Barreau, A., Ibarra, J. T., Wyndham, F. S., Rojas, A., & Kozak, R. A. (2016). How Can We Teach Our Children if We Cannot Access the Forest?Generational Change in Mapuche Knowledge of Wild Edible Plants in Andean Temperate Ecosystems of Chile. Journal of Ethnobiology, 36(2), 412–432.

Bauer, K. (2016) Land versus Territory: Evaluating Indigenous Land Policy for the Mapuche in Chile. Journal of Agrarian Change, 16(4), 627-645. Retrieved Nov 7, 2020, from

Bugueño F., De Los Ríos I., Castañeda R. (2017) Responsible Land Governance and Project Management Competences for Sustainable Social Development. The Chilean-Mapuche Conflict. International Journal of Economics and Financial Issues. Vol 7, 6. (202-211)

Donoso P.J., Romero J. E. (2020) Towards a New Forest Model for Chile: Managing Forest Ecosystems to Increase Their Social, Ecological and Economic Benefits. Ecological Economic and Socio Ecological Strategies for Forest Conservation, A Transdisciplinary Approach Focused on Chile and Brazil. Springer. (158-170)

Herrmann, T. M. (2005). Knowledge, values, uses and management of the Araucaria araucana forest by the indigenous Mapuche Pewenche people: A basis for collaborative natural resource management in southern Chile. Natural Resources Forum, 29(2), 120–134.

International Labour Organization. (n.d.). Ratifications for Chile. Retrieved from

Menzies, Nicholas K. (2007). In Our Forest, Your Ecosystem, Their Timber, Columbia University Press, 30-68.

Meza, L. (2009). Mapuche Struggles for Land and the Role of Private Protected Areas in Chile. Journal of Latin American Geography, 8(1), 149-163. Retrieved November 7, 2020, from

Millaman, R., Hale, C., Aylwin, J., Canio, M., Castillo, Y., Nahuelpan, H., . . . Sanchez, R. (2016). Chile's Forestry Industry, FSC Certification and Mapuche Communities. Retrieved from

Mühlen, M. V., Aylwin, J., Kausel, T., & Fuders, F. (2020). Land Tenure Insecurity and Forest Conservation in Chile: The Case of the Mapuche Huilliche Indigenous Communities in the Coastal Range Rainforests of Mapu Lahual. Ecological Economic and Socio Ecological Strategies for Forest Conservation, 127-157. doi:10.1007/978-3-030-35379-7_7

Pauchard, A., & Villarroel, P. (2002). Protected areas in chile: History, current status, and challenges. The Association.

Richards, P. (2013). Race and the Chilean miracle / neoliberalism, democracy, and indigenous rights. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.

Tomaselli, A. (2012). Natural Resources Claims, Land Conflicts and Self-Empowerment of Indigenous Movements in the Cono Sur – The Case of the Mapuche People in Chile. International Journal on Minority and Group Rights, 19(2), 153–174.

Seekiefer (Pinus halepensis) 9months-fromtop.jpg
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