Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Name

Forest and Conservation Science

Department or School/College

W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation

Committee Chair

Keith Bosak

Commitee Members

Jill Belsky, Jennifer Thomsen, Betsy Bach, L. Scott Mills, Vinod Bihari Mathur


buffer zone management, community-based conservation, enclavic tourism, reterritorialization, tiger reserves, zoning


University of Montana


Zoning has become the sine qua non in protected area management around the world. Yet zoning as an assemblage of policies, practices and especially politics is not well understood, especially through a critical geographical/political ecology lens. In this research, I used the concepts of territorialization, reterritorialization and enclavization as a framework for examining the creation and impacts of zoning in the Corbett Tiger Reserve (CTR) landscape over past five decades (1973-2023). The Corbett Tiger Reserve landscape has the largest wild tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) population in any protected area in the world. The framework helped to understand successive phases of core, buffer and tourism zone-making, the proliferation of resort tourism, and their negative implications for local communities. As a critical qualitative case study, the research utilized mixed methods including interviews, document analysis, focus groups and semi-structured surveys with a variety of CTR staff and local villagers.

The research traces the designation of core/buffer zones under Project Tiger in CTR, a territorialization process informed by the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act 2006. Legislation prescribed the core area be inviolate for tigers (i.e., strict prohibition on human activities) while the buffer zone was to be managed for coexistence of human activities with tiger conservation. However, this study traces the forces over time that led to the diminishing of the distinction between the two zones. Official policy to meet tiger conservation objectives through fostering ecotourism and community-based conservation in the buffer zone did not occur. Instead, the cumulative zoning processes produced an archipelago of enclavic tourism zones dominated by private, resort tourism – a reterritorialization process involving reregulating and rebranding zones as territories for new forms of economic production. CTR policies privileged vehicle-based safari tours and restricted angling and other foot-based tourism activities, reducing the ability of local communities to benefit from tourism. Prior rights of villagers in reserved forests were curtailed, nor were community forests (panchayat van) in the landscape recognized and used to build community-based conservation and tourism. The politics of zoning requires further study in tiger reserves, especially on the production of enclavic tourism and vastly uneven social and ecological impacts.



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