Drug War Conservation: Challenges and Solutions

Presented by Dr. Jennifer Devine, Assistant Professor of Geography, Texas State University

Date: Tuesday, March 31, 2020
Time: 6:30pm - 8:30pm
Location: 108 Sneden Hall (DeVos Campus' Multipurpose Room)


The US-led War on Drugs in Latin America has created a cat and mouse game of military interdiction that pushes drug traffickers into remote areas.  Drug traffickers finance illegal cattle ranching and oil palm cultivation in protected areas to legitimize their presence, claim smuggling territory, and to launder money.  Dr. Devine’s research team integrates remote sensing, GIS, and ethnographic methods to analyze drug trafficking’s environmental impacts in Central America’s protected areas.  Their research reveals that drug trafficking is a key driver of deforestation in Guatemalan and Honduran national parks.  Furthermore, drug trafficking degrades mangroves, wetlands, rivers, and marine sources across, and enables the smuggling and trafficking of people, flora, and fauna across the region.  Uneven patterns of narco-land grabs and narco-degradation reveal differences in protected area governance.  Indigenous and community-managed forests are more resilient to narco-trafficking, by contrast, drug trafficking activities are concentrated in state-managed national parks in countries with weak governance, like Honduras and Guatemala.  In the era of the Drug War Conservation, Indigenous and peasant community-resource management is the most viable conservation strategy: this approach simultaneously achieves environmental sustainability, improves security and governance, and serves as a means of social and environment justice.