Unofficial roads form dense networks in landscapes, generating a litany of negative ecological outcomes, but in frontier areas they are also instrumental in local livelihoods and community development. This trade-off poses dilemmas for the governance of unofficial roads. Unofficial road building in frontier areas of the Brazilian Amazon illustrates the challenges of ‘road governance.’ Both state-based and community-based governance models exhibit important liabilities for governing unofficial roads. Whereas state-based governance has experienced difficulties in adapting to specific local contexts and interacting effectively with local peoples, community-based governance has a mixed record owing to social inequalities and conflicts among local interest groups. A state-community hybrid model may offer more effective governance of unofficial road building by combining the oversight capacity of the state with locally-grounded community management via participatory decision-making.
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