Community-based organizations (CBOs) are an institutional response to a number of different challenges in managing landscapes as heritage, representing mechanisms to enhance the agency of local communities to shape and benefit from heritage preservation and development, and pay attention to local heritage practices (Coombes et al., 2014; Ndoro, Chirikure, and Deacon, 2018). Yet their constitution also positions CBOs as active political agents in “heritagization from below” (Chung and Bains, 2020) – meaning the processes of making and re-making of heritage which, intentionally and unintentionally, prioritize certain heritage values over others. Through a case study of heritage sites in Kisumu County, Kenya, we demonstrate that CBOs are both a necessary, but also insufficient, part of the local institutional architecture of landscape management. Whilst local community organizations provide mechanisms for better promoting local interests, effective site management, retaining the economic benefits of local site development locally, and strengthening community capacity to resist efforts to “capture” the sites by local administrations or developers, CBOs simultaneously produce tensions and the risk of different forms of capture, due to the multi-scalar governance contexts in which they sit and the conflicting rationalities that inform local landscape management. To this extent, although they are critical actors in heritage governance in both theory and practice, they are a necessary but not sufficient condition for local engagement in heritage management, in the absence of wider structural, funding, and policy changes.