© 2015 Springer Science+Business Media New York. Invasions of bracken fern, Pteridium aquilinum, are an important source of agricultural degradation in many tropical areas. We present a case study of apparent historical degradation of agricultural land which, combined with recent conservation measures, may have created new pressures on food production. Our study of two communities in the Chinantla region, Oaxaca, Mexico is based on interviews and documentation of low farmer awareness of the anthropogenic origins of bracken fern invasions, local knowledge of control techniques and the social-ecological implications of bracken degraded areas. A model for a potential participatory restoration project based on ongoing collective action processes in the communities is proposed. Financial support is needed to incentivize farmers to participate in restoration efforts, to recover productive lands and improve local livelihoods. Agricultural restoration efforts would contribute to sustainable multifunctional landscapes.