Barriers to PES programs in Indigenous communities: A lesson in land tenure insecurity from the Hopi Indian reservation

Michael Kotutwa Johnson, Aaron M. Lien, Natalya Robbins Sherman, Laura López-Hoffman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


There has been significant study of barriers to implementation of payment for ecosystem services in Indigenous communities in less developed countries. These barriers include land tenure insecurity and lack of access to capital. However, there is no similar research in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries. Our research fills this gap. We hypothesize that mismatches between the traditional land tenure regimes and institutional arrangements of Indigenous communities on one hand, and government sponsors of PES programs on the other hand, result in the lack of success of these programs. To test this hypothesis, we conducted a qualitative study of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) on the Hopi reservation in the United States. We answer two questions: (1) What barriers prevent Hopi ranchers and farmers from participating in incentive-based programs? (2) What institutional changes are necessary to permit Hopi farmer and rancher participation in EQIP? We analyzed primary documents and conducted key informant interviews. We conclude that land tenure is at the forefront of problems associated with administering PES programs in Indigenous communities. Without new approaches addressing the land tenure regimes in Indigenous communities, PES will continue to struggle on American Indian reservations and around the world.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)62-69
Number of pages8
JournalEcosystem Services
StatePublished - Aug 2018


  • Developing countries
  • Hopi
  • Indigenous communities
  • Land tenure
  • Payment for ecosystem services

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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