Guyana- Statutory law – Preconditions
Wildlife, which has an independent legal status under the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act, is defined as any non-domestic organism in the kingdoms of animals, plants, chromista, protistas, prokaryotes and fungi. Under the Forests Act, trees and plants on public land are deemed state property. For animals, state ownership can be inferred from legislation as the government allocates tenure rights through hunting and fishing licences.
Indigenous populations are defined under the Amerindian Act as ‘Amerindians’. The Amerindian Act distinguishes between Amerindian villages and Amerindian communities, based on their rights to land. Whereas Amerindian villages are legally recognized groupings that have communal ownership of the lands they traditionally occupy (i.e. they have formal titles over village lands), Amerindian communities are groupings considered to occupy state lands since they do not have formal land titles.
The legal framework provides for the involvement of Amerindians in wildlife use and management. Traditional rights include subsistence rights owned legally as well as those owned by custom and are recognized for both communities and villages under the Amerindian Act. However, compared to the communities, Amerindian villages have more rights regarding the management of wildlife and natural resources in their titled lands. The Wildlife Conservation, Management and Sustainable Use Regulations also provide for specific rules for Amerindians such as collective trapping licences, exemptions for wildlife collecting and captive breeding, etc. The Forests Act provides for forest community concessions that help secure the rights of local communities to meet their local needs while ensuring sustainable use.
The Wildlife Conservation, Management and Sustainable Use Regulations allows for the establishment of wildlife conservation areas on private and public lands. Stakeholders are involved in the development of management programmes for these areas. Similarly, the forest legal frameworks allow for the establishment of conservation areas.
Overlapping of hunting and fishing areas with protected areas and forest areas is partially regulated. The Protected Areas Act, the Forests Act and the Amerindian Act recognize traditional rights over protected areas, state forests and state lands. However, the Amerindian Act states that traditional rights over state lands apply subject to the rights of private leaseholders that were in place when the Act came into effect. According to the Wildlife Conservation, Management and Sustainable Use Regulations, programmes for wildlife conservation areas cannot affect existing rights under Amerindian titles, concessions, leases and permits. However, there is no mention of traditional rights owned by custom.
The Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission Act establishes the functions of the Guyana Land and Survey Commission in relation to land tenure. The Town and Country Planning Act provides functions at national and local levels for the development of land schemes. The Wildlife Conservation and Management Act assigns the Guyana Wildlife Conservation and Management Commission (GWCMC) responsibility for wildlife management and sets out the conditions under which these powers may be delegated. The Amerindian Act establishes the functions of the Amerindian village councils regarding land and natural resources management. It also establishes the National Toshaos Council as the representative body of village councils at the national level.
The Wildlife Conservation and Management Act and Wildlife Conservation, Management and Sustainable Use Regulations list offences and sanctions related to wildlife tenure. Sanctions include fines and imprisonment.