Course:FRST370/The relationships among government, environmental and community stakeholders in Wanglang Panda Reserve Area, Pingwu County, Sichuan Province, China

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This case study examines the influence of changing forestry management on Baima community near Wanglang Panda Reserve Area from 1965 to 2019 in Pingwu County, Sichuan Province, China. By using a variety of sources, we explore the relationships among government, environmental, and community stakeholders in the community forest.

Within the time range of the case study, the local community's (Baima) experiences are categorised into three periods: the establishment of nature reserve (from 1965), the success of the ecotourism program (from 1996 to 2006) and the threat of mass tourism (from 2006 to present)[1].  The establishment of the nature reserve and enforcement of logging restrictions put high pressure on Baima community, which depended on timber production. Then, the ecotourism development assisted by NGOs and the government provided plenty of job opportunities to local people, improved the standard of living, and strengthened scientific research. However, in order to maintain the prosperity of the sustainable development of the local community, the effect of mass tourism and livestock on the Wanglang nature reserve should be taken into consideration in the community forest management and in the management of the Panda Reserve Area.


Basic information of the Wanglang Panda Reserve Area

Wanglang Panda Reserve Area (also known as Wanglang Nature Reserve, or Wanglang National Nature Reserve, 103°50'E–104°58'E, 32°49'N–33°02'N) in Pingwu County was established in 1965, which is one of China's earliest giant panda reserves. The area of this reserve is around 320 km2, with elevations ranging from 2,320 to 4,891 m. It is located in the northern part of Sichuan Province (See Fig. 2)[2]. It is also a global biodiversity hotspot and contains abundant wildlife, including about 28 wild giant pandas[3]. By 2008, there were 200 vertebrates species in Wanglang National Nature Reserve of 22 orders, 64 families, including 6 orders, 22 families, 58 species of mammals, 12 orders, 32 families, 120 species of birds, 2 orders, 4 families, 13 species of reptiles, and 2 orders, 6 families, 9 species of amphibians.[4] As well as the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca), many endangered animals are protected within Wanglang Nature Reserve, including

Fig. 2 The location of sampling locations and camera traps in Wanglang National Nature Reserve, Pingwu County, Sichuan Province, China. (DEM: Digital Elevation Model; the second picture in the left-bottom corner is Pingwu County)

·      the golden snubnosed monkey (Rhinopithecus roxellanae),

·      the snow leopard (Panthera uncia), and

·      the takin (Budorcas taxicolor).

·      Dark conifer forest composed of the fir Abies faxoniana and the spruce Picea purpurea are also protected within the reserve[5].

Basic information on the Baima Tibetan Community

Fig. 3 The relative location of Baima Tibetian Community (with Wanglang Nature Reserve and Pingwu County)

Nature conditions

Although there are fewer anthropogenic disturbances in this area, the ecosystem is particularly fragile due to the natural environment. Earthquake and collapse, landslides, debris flow, and other geological disasters frequently occur in the region. Frequent geological disasters, cold climate, and soil erosion make the production conditions here inefficient, not conducive to farming, and grazing conditions are not ideal[6].

Land area and population

The original area of Baima Tibetan township is 715 km2 (including Wanglang Nature Reserve, see Fig. 4), the cultivated land area is 526.8 mu (=2.132 km2), the total area of forest land is 70848 mu (= 286.73 km2)[7].

There are 4 administrative villages and 15 villagers' groups under the jurisdiction of the township, with a total of 411 households and a total population of 1523 people (1465 of whom are agricultural). The main economic source is tourism, supplemented by planting and breeding. A small number of people go outside of the township for work. The township now has 108 low-income poor households (429 people), and 9 wubao households (9 people, person who doesn't have a supporter, like his/her children for a senior or parents for a child, and have neither the ability to work nor the source of income is considered as wubao person)[7].

At the same time, because of the language gap, the communications with outsiders are limited[8].

Infrastructure construction

The level of basic public infrastructure was pretty low. Only in 2015, the electricity, communication, and water conservancy system were finished in this community.


The educational level in this village was generally low. Most of the villagers have finished primary or secondary school education. Therefore, industries that have high requirements in specific technology cannot be settled in this area. Moreover, the tolerance to outside culture or things were affected.

Economy (forest value)

The breeding industry is important and traditional economic activities in Baima community. Before the enforcement of the logging ban in 1998, there were logging, wood processing, and non-timber product utilization in the village. Although being limited by policy, the traditional hunting activities of Tibetan people were reduced but not stopped.


The four main sources of income was animal husbandry, bee raising, transportation, and agritainment which is xxx. The income from animal husbandry was high but seriously affected the ecosystem degradation. From 2011, the agritainment was developing with the support of tourism company which has less effect on the ecosystem.

Community management

The community management project in Baima community started in 1998 and ended in 2003. During this period, there were 4 projects supported by Baima villagers.

  • "Wuweizi" project: normalize collecting local plants (Schisandra chinensis), which have medicinal value and make this resource sustainable.
  • "Bees protect panda" project: community raising bees to protect the ecosystem and promote the engagement of the community in monitoring and patrol.
  • "Huifengshui" project: protect the ecosystem and water resource, carrying on ecological compensation[8].

Timeline and history

1965--Wanglang Nature Reserve and Tibetan village established, controlled by the local government of Pingwu County, which was affiliated to Mianyang city.

1996--Ecotourism program, with the financial and technical assistance of WWF, the Baima community became less dependent on the forest in the nature reserve. They raise bees and use traditional medicine sustainably. Moreover, they learned to exhibit their specific minority culture to the tourists in the ecotourism[1].

1998--Government-enforced logging restriction to timber-dependent communities, causing the activities of illegal logging, collecting wild mushrooms that affect panda habitat and management. The ecotourism project of ICDP(Integrated conservation development project) was evaluated and planned with the support of WWF in Pingwu County[8].

1999--The comprehensive planning of community management in Wanglang was started by WWF and research institutions in China.

2000--The ecotourism project was implemented in Wanglang Nature Reserve.

2006--The ecotourism program closed and was replaced by the mass tourism controlled by the government of Mianyang city. The goal of this change was to accelerate local economic development, which conflicted with the nature protection effort in nature reserve. Meanwhile, Baima villagers expand their grazing activity that was destroying the habitat in the nature reserve.

2008--The mass tourism was stopped by the earthquake.

Tenure arrangements

Before 1950s

Before the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC), China practiced private ownership of land (also known as "the system of land ownership of landlords") across the country.[9] However, the related records of Baima Tibetan Communities are not found. We suggest that local peoples' customary rights to the forest were not interfered with by the government.

From 1950s to 1960s

The Chinese government implemented the collectivization (public ownership) policy. Land and natural resources belong to Chinese citizens and are managed by the government on their behalf. At the beginning of this period, PRC government practiced "unified land management system", which means every local government has their own land administration department; however, with the nationalization of land and the establishment of the free administrative allocation land-use system, not only state organizations, troops, and schools can use state-owned land for free, but also when enterprises use state-owned land, they will be allocated by the local government for free, without paying rent. In 1954, China abolished the land administration department and decentralized land administration functions to the ministries of agriculture, water resources, and urban construction. [10] At the same time, under the guidance of the strategy of "focusing on grain", the campaign of opening up wasteland, reclamation, and re-plowing were carried out nationwide, which brought about an increase in the amount of agricultural land.[10] This expansion of agricultural land put a threat to the local wildlife.

From 1965 (the establishment of Wanglang Nature Reserve) to 1994

Hunting and collection activities are affected by the establishment of the nature reserve, but those activities were still happening in this period. [11] At the same time, Forest industry enterprises entered the Baima township area for logging. From 1958 to 1990, 1.34 million m3 of wood was cut in the Baima forest area, 90% of the timber stock in the Baima forest area was logged. By the early 1990s, Baima's timber resources had been largely depleted. However, the major beneficiaries are not local people, although logging income accounted for around 60% of their total income.[6]

After 1994 (the promulgation of the Regulations of the People's Republic of China on Nature Reserves)

In Regulations of the People's Republic of China on Nature Reserves Chapter 2 Article 18, it's clearly stated that "Nature reserves may be divided into three parts: the core zone, buffer zone and experimental zone."[12] In the core zone, no person or scientific studies are allowed except important scientific studies approved by the provincial government. In the buffer zone, only scientific studies and observations are allowed. In the experimental zone, various activities, including ecotourism and educational practices are allowed. Outside the nature reserve area, the lands are still accessible for local peoples. There was also a logging ban in 1998 to stop forest degradation, which also had a huge impact on local people's economy.

Administrative arrangements

Before 1994

Before the founding of Wanglang Nature Reserve, local people practiced grazing, hunting, etc. in Pingwu County.

In 1965, after the establishment of Wanglang Nature Reserve, activities within the reserve area was limited. Wanglang Nature Reserve has been managed by the Hujiamo Management Institute of Pingwu County Forestry Bureau.

In 1979, Sichuan Provincial Revolutionary Committee decided that the Wanglang Nature Reserve was jointly led by Sichuan province (mainly) and Pingwu county together. [4]

After 1994

In 1994, the Regulations of the People's Republic of China on Nature Reserves was officially promulgated and implemented, Chapter 3 is about the management of nature reserves. Article 19 says "The competent department of environment protection administration under the State Council shall organize the relevant administrative departments of nature reserves under the State Council to formulate the technical regulations and criteria for the management of nature reserves all over the country." And Article 20 says "The competent departments of environment protection administration in the people's governments at or above the county level shall have the right to conduct supervision and inspection on the management of all the nature reserves within their administrative areas. The relevant competent administrative departments of nature reserves in the people's government at or above the county level shall have the right to conduct supervision and inspection on the management of the nature reserves which are under their charge."[12]

Now, the Baima township government was made up of two parts, administrative agency and business agency. The administrative agency is in charge of coordinating the work of the party and government affairs, and the business agency is in charge of agriculture and ecotourism. [13]

Affected Stakeholders

Baima Tibetan villagers

Traditional costume of Baima Tibetan villagers.

The main relevant objectives for Baima Tibetan villagers are lands and tradition lifestyle, including pasturing livestock, collecting wild mushrooms (which will cause vegetation degradation), and hunting (which is illegal now). They were not involved in the planning and decision-making process in community management from the beginning. As they had to follow the arrangement from the community management projects, they had limited power in the community management.

The traditional culture of Baima community includes the content of respect and protect nature. They have been dependent on the forest for generations, worshipping mountain gods and tree gods, and basically not cutting down trees except for building houses and burning wood. They also have the tradition of hunting and beekeeping[8]. However, this lifestyle in harmony with nature caused the poor living standard of the Baima community. Meanwhile, there are few communications with outside. Until the 1970s, Pingwu county city road was built in Baima township, which was Pingwu Baima People's most concentrated area [6].

The establishment of nature reserve transferred lots of lands, which were previously considered as individual owned and managed land to the government-managed land. Many Baima Tibetans, therefore, had to move out of their previous living areas, which belong to the nature reserve now. They were unwilling to comply with the compulsive removal[8]. Meanwhile, as pasturing in nature reserve is not allowed, the area available for grazing is much less now.

After the founding of the People's Republic of China, Forestry enterprises entered the Baima area for timber production, and many Baima Tibetan villagers were involved in the logging activities. The community highly depends on logging for living before the enforcement of the logging ban in 1998. Meanwhile, as the project to returning farmland to forest "Returning Farmland to Forest Plan" (also known as Grain for Green) was started in 2000, government began to provide subsidies to Baima villagers, according to the price of 250 jin (125 kg) of rice per mu (667 m2 = 0.0667 ha; overall 1875 kg per ha)[6]. The ICDP project started with the help of WWF in 1998, Baima Tibetan received training related to organic beekeeping and the sustainable use of wild traditional Chinese medicinal resources[1] which provided another way to get income from nature resource and avoid destroying local environment. However, the activities of illegal hunting and collecting wild mushrooms for income still exist until today.

Interested Outside Stakeholders

Nature reserve administration

The objective of the nature reserve administration is to protect the ecosystem in the Baima area, monitoring and limit the overuse of resources by the local community. The Wanglang nature reserve was affiliated to Pingwu county[8]. Their relative power is pretty limited. Before the ecotourism project canceled by the Pingwu government, the nature reserve helped train the local community to develop and exhibit their specific traditional culture to attract visitors and improve the construction of infrastructure like restaurants and homestays for tourists. After the mass tourism set up in 2006, the nature reserve just carried on scientific research and monitoring the effect of mass tourism[1].

Bureau of Forest of Pingwu County

Bureau of Forest of Pingwu County is interested in the long-term sustainable development of this area to protect the local environment. The local Forest Bureau just showed dissatisfied with the development controlled by the Bureau of Animal Husbandry of Pingwu County. They cannot change this development pattern because they did not have power in finance and management.

Bureau of Animal Husbandry of Pingwu County

The Bureau of Forest of Pingwu County does not strictly prohibit the overgrazing. Although they assessed the condition of pasture areas in nature reserve, the results showed that it was reasonable to develop animal husbandry in that area as the evaluation system was made with the aspect of increasing community income which becomes a reason for villager to pasture within nature reserve and intensifies the conflict between nature reserve and local community.

Tourism company

The tourism company "Tianyou" undertook the tourism in Baima area by contrast with the government in Pingwu County, they focused on earning a short-term profit. However, they did not provide jobs to the Baima community because they thought that the education level of Baima Tibetan community was low. Therefore, they conflict with the local community[8].


In 1998, the WWF Chengdu office worked with the nature reserve administration to provide financial and technical support to the ecotourism program in Baima, which targets tourists with high xxx[1]. The goal of this program was to help the Baima community to find an alternative mode of production. They had the power to join in the decision making and planning of the community management during the ecotourism project which depended on their support.

Tourists and public

Their objective is to maintain and improve the ecosystem and biodiversity in the nature reserve, as biodiversity is resource storage for the whole world with the function of ecosystem services (entertainment, etc.). They have limited power to affect the community management in Baima community.


Aims and intentions

The slogan of Wanglang Nature Reserve is "Protecting ecosystem with rich biodiversity of the reserve to create a future of harmonious coexistence between humans and nature."[4] The aim of the community management project in Baima was to maintain the regular management in Wanglang Nature Reserve, protect the local environment, and promote living standard of the Baima community.


In general, forest degradation has been controlled, the living standards of local peoples have improved, and rural infrastructure and the construction of public facilities have developed.

Environmental achievements

In 1998, the logging ban was put in place; 2000, Returning Farmland to Forest Plan (also known as Grain for Green) was put in place.[6] Fig. 5 shows that at least deforestation is limited through these two regulations. Fig. 6 can also confirm this result.[11]

Selling honey

Baima Tibetans have a tradition of beekeeping, and most families do beekeeping. Before 1998, when the economy was still good, the outsider visitors are very few, so there is nearly no demand or buyer of honey. Most families raise bees just for self-using.

After 1998, as income declined and ecotourism in the WL Nature Reserve attracted more tourists, most villagers began to exchange honey for money. Increasing the number of bee colonies can increase crop yield and promote the reproduction of local plants. [11]The honey business also creates an economic diversity for the villagers.

Over the years, the Management Office of Wanglang Nature Reserve has conducted various community-based development and conservation projects, including training local communities in organic beekeeping and the sustainable use of wild traditional Chinese medicinal resources. Cooperating with domestic nature conservation NGOs, such as Shanshui Conservation Center, the Management Office also helped develop branding and packaging for local honey products and set up marketing channels so beekeepers can earn a better price for their products, which enables the switch from price-taking to price-making.[1]


The nature reserve has rich resources in rare plant and animal species, which can attract scientific research and nature education program. And the tourism project in WL was in the initial stages of development. Annual total visits were predicted to increase to 150,000 people/yr in the future, with potential recreation benefits of $11,491,200. At the same time, tourism in the reserve has a successful educational purpose for visitors about the endangered species, the environment, and biodiversity.[14] The success of the ecotourism project has helped strengthen scientific research, conservation, and educational activities in the Wanglang Nature Reserve, as well as the relationship with Baima residents.[1]


Illegal hunting and collecting activities

The existence of illegal hunting and collecting wild mushroom and herbal medicine (such as Cordyceps sinensis) in Wanglang nature reserve by Baima Tibetan villagers (see Fig. 5) showed that after the establishment of nature reserve and enforcement of logging ban, the community did not find a way to earn money without disturbing local environment. Although the ecotourism project and other community management projects were launched, the economic need of the villagers is not satisfied.

The pressure of tourism and road

Recent surveys show that Wanglang has had an average of 50,000 visitors a year since 2011, and the number is increasing year by year.[1] However, Youping Chen, director of the Management Office of Wanglang Nature Reserve, said, "The reserve can only receive a maximum of 30,000 visitors a year without seriously affecting the pandas' habitat".[15] The road construction caused by developing tourism is also considered as a threat to the habitats. On the one hand, it results in fragmental and dispersive habitats. On the other hand, some bamboos (the main food source of giant pandas) were destroyed or buried by soil, sand, and stone during road construction, and also strongly affected by human activities associated with roads. The range of road-affected habitat was 0–200 m, which was about 30 times greater than the width of the road itself, suggesting that the range of road effect is much greater than its own area.[16] What's more, Sichuan Provincial Government also plans to build a highway from Chengdu (the capital of Sichuan Province) to Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve (One of the most famous tourist sites in China), which passes by Wanglang Nature Reserve.[1]

Low engagement[8]

The ICDP project supported by WWF helped the local community to promote the infrastructure and living standard, provided profit to both the community economy and ecosystem by ecotourism. However, the community management projects did not fully consider the participation of villagers in the starting period, and all the decision was made by nature reserve. There were not enough connections between each project. Villagers lost the enthusiasm to join in management as they participated passively, and they are always excluded from decision-making processes.

The reasons why the community management plan cannot be continued these years[8]

  • The funding was not enough to support the community management plan.
  • The notion of utilizing traditional resources was hard to change for villagers.
  • The local government had a bias in the comprehension of protection and development.
  • The community development and environmental protection was out of balance which were acknowledged as the key reason for the lack of community management project these years.

Conflicts between community and nature reserve[8]

The conflict between development and protection in policy.

The villagers had a strong negative attitude toward the stipulation of the nature reserve that fully prohibit the utilization of resources in the nature reserve.

The conflict between protection and tradition

The villagers had a tradition of hunting, which runs counter to the protection principle of the nature reserve. Meanwhile, the long-time utilization of local resources made the villagers hard to accept the stipulation from the nature reserve.

The conflict of tenure

Before the establishment of Wanglang Nature Reserve, there were lands divided by villagers in private. After the operation of the nature reserve, the traditional usage of land was changed forcibly.

The lack of communication between nature reserve and local community

Because of the low-level education of villagers and the language gap, the communication between the nature reserve and the local community was not successful. It was hard for villagers to understand the aim of the establishment of the nature reserve.

The conflict of compensation

The traditional profits were damaged as a result of the establishment of the nature reserve. However, the compensation measures to the villagers did not meet their requirements.  


As mentioned before, the Baima Tibetan villagers, as affected stakeholders, had little power in the community management. They didn't involve in planning or decision making of community management at the beginning. Moreover, although the villagers were engaged in the training process during the ecotourism project, they just followed the planning of it[8].

In Baima community area, interested stakeholders like Nature reserve administration, NGOs, Bureau of Forest of Pingwu County, and the public had limited power. Among this, Nature reserve administration and NGOs had the power for decision making and planning in management during the ecotourism project, they used these power on training villagers, launch ecotourism and setting up marketing channel[1]. Compared to them, the Bureau of Forest of Pingwu County and the public could only show a negative attitude towards the unsustainable development[8].

Other interested stakeholders, including Bureau of Animal Husbandry of Pingwu County and tourism company, had strong power in deciding the development pattern. The tourism company "Tianyou" undertook the tourism in Baima, planned to start large-scale construction in the Baima area to promote the infrastructure for developing tourism. Meanwhile, the Bureau of Animal Husbandry of Pingwu County agreed with the overgrazing in Wanglang Nature Reserve[8].


  • The Provincial Government and the Management Office should enhance the integrity of the monitoring and management process or system inside the reserve in order to reduce or eliminate illegal hunting and collecting activities. Draw on the experience from Naidu Village in Yunnan Province, forming a self-policing or self-monitoring group could be a good choice, which can improve engagement and create jobs. Also, make sure the process of making rules is participatory for everyone and supervised by experts.
  • Reducing hunting and collecting activities may lower the income of local villagers, so the governments should invest more projects and create more jobs for villagers to get new sources of income.
  • The local government should seek help from foundations to enhance and improve local people's living conditions. Upgrade, renew, or implement new infrastructures in the reserve. The lack of infrastructure is one of the reasons that the ecotourism plan fails. The foundations can be used to create more projects to level up the infrastructure, which provides jobs for local people, improves local engagement, and also attracts travelers.
  • The Management Office and local governments should improve or establish new tourism management plans to better monitor the impacts. Maximizing tourism benefits but minimizing tourism impacts.
  • Due to the low education level, the provincial government should invest more to attract experts and scholars across China or even around the world. Scientific research also plays an essential role in monitoring the nature reserve.
  • Outside the reserve area, the Management Office, local government, and provincial government should promote and maximize engagement with local residents to establish better agricultural management rules and policies; provide enough space for villagers (especially farmers) to cultivate without any intervention, damage, or destruction to the wildlife habitat. Provide a subsidy to local residents because the lands and waters taken by the nature reserve is the traditional and ancestral territory of Baima Tibetan People.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 Wang, Yan (2016). "China's Wanglang panda reserve, once an ecotourism model, faces new threats". Mongabay.
  2. Tian, Cheng; Liao, Peichun; Dayannanda, Buddhi; Zhang, Yuyang; Liu, Zhexiao; Li, Junqing; Yu, Bing; Qing, Li (2019). "Impacts of livestock grazing, topography and vegetation on distribution of wildlife in Wanglang National Nature Reserve, China". Global Ecology and Conservation. 20 (e00726).
  3. Kang, Dongwei; Wang, Xiaorong; Li, Junqing (2017). "Resting site use of giant pandas in Wanglang Nature Reserve". Scientific Reports. 7 (13809).
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  7. 7.0 7.1 "Baima Tibetian Township". Official Website of Pingwu People's Government. 2012.
  8. 8.00 8.01 8.02 8.03 8.04 8.05 8.06 8.07 8.08 8.09 8.10 8.11 8.12 Zhang, Y. (2016). Research on community co-management mechanism examined from the environmental ethics perspective: a case study of Daoqiejia in Baima Wanglang Nature Reserves, Sichuan, China. Beijing Forestry University.
  9. Gao, Haiyan (2007). "A Historical Review of the Change of Chinese Land System in the 20th Century". Journal of Zhejiang University (Humanities and Social Sciences). 37 (5): 124–133.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Huang, Zhong (2018). "The historical change of land administration law in China". PKULAW.
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  12. 12.0 12.1 State Council of the People's Republic of China. Regulations of the People's Republic of China on Nature Reserves (2017 Amendment PKULAW Version) (2017).
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  14. Liu, Wei (2012). "Drivers and Socioeconomic Impacts of Tourism Participation in Protected Areas". PLoS One. 17: e35420.
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  16. Kang, D., Wang, X., Yang, H., Duan, L., & Li, J. (2014). "Habitat use by giant panda in relation to ROADS in Wanglang Nature Reserve of China". Environmental Science and ComparedPollution Research, 21(23), Can. J. Zool. 92: 715–719

Seekiefer (Pinus halepensis) 9months-fromtop.jpg
This conservation resource was created by Chunxi Cao, Lambert Ye.