Many nature conservation policies led by national and international institutions are often based on the assumption that local people found in areas of conservation importance do not have favourable attitudes towards the environment. This assumption not only affects rural communities, but is sometimes prejudicially directed towards countries in the southern hemisphere and the Mediterranean region. This paper describes the findings of qualitative inquiry conducted in 2001 in three mountain communities in the Pafos Forest, Cyprus, aiming to examine how people value the local environment and how they feel about the future of their villages, in light of the implementation of European Union conservation policies. In addition to the qualitative inquiry, a telephone survey was administered to 1,010 individuals in Cyprus to examine the environmental attitudes of the wider public in Cyprus. The inquiry in the Pafos Forest showed that contrary to prevalent assumptions, rural people have a deep appreciation for the local environment and a strong conservation ethic. At the same time, they are concerned about the future of their communities with respect to the implementation of EU policies, which place a priority on nature conservation, but do not always address the pluralistic needs of local people. The larger public in Cyprus also holds favourable values towards the environment and supports the survival of rural communities in Cyprus, indicating the importance of policy that addresses both environmental and cultural sustainability in Cyprus.
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