This paper is an exploration of the relationship between a conservation intervention and the quest for local institutional legitimacy and conservation success through co-management. More precisely, this paper will employ the case of Xcalak Reefs National Park (PNAX) to illuminate the interaction between contextual and procedural elements of co-management implementation, how these variables affect the production of legitimacy in the minds of local resource users, and how resultant attitudes can subvert both management devolution and resource conservation. The failure to produce co-management will be related to the mismatch inherent in attempts to map co-management onto a histories and institutions that do not align with the morality and practicalities necessary for its implementation. The case reiterates the necessity for conservation managers and practitioners to have an understanding of local history and context. Lastly, Xcalak demonstrates the dangers for the success of conservation and development programs inherent in management processes that are inconsistent with built expectations. In so doing, this paper highlights critical assumptions made in the real-world application of co-management, as well as inherent conflicts found between local and extra-local moralities that guide conservation work.

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