Proceedings from: Reflections on Common Property Theory & Research
The Workshop in Political Theory & Policy Analysis
Indiana University, Bloomington, IN
Date: 7 June, 1999
Edited by: Michelle Curtain
Transcribed by: Merwin Siu and A. Vishnu Pandurangadu
Published by the International Association for the Study of Common Property(IASCP), Revised on December 5, 1999.
On June 7, 1999, the International Association for the Study of Common Property (IASCP), sponsored a symposium entitled: Reflections on Common Property Theory and Research. The Symposium was held at The Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University. The Symposium was held prior to the annual executive council meeting of the IASCP. This symposium included some of the best scholars working on the use of and management of common pool resources. Participants were asked to prepare ten minute presentations and reflect on their work in common property research and management. The presentations were divided into three sessions and each session was followed by a ten-minute question and answer segment. Clark Gibson and Fabrice Lehoucq moderated the question and answer segments. The workshop began with a brief welcome by Elinor Ostrom, Co-director of the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, and all participants were introduced by Michelle Curtain, IASCP Secretary-Treasurer.
Presentation 1: Revising Common Property When and Where We Need It Today
Political Science, Duke University
I have been interested in figuring out when and where we need to use common property today, and breaking apart the pieces of that question, that is trying to figure out what are the circumstances under which we should be trying to use and devise shared property rights rather than individual property rights. People associated with privatization often speak only of individual private property and I am a little worried that sometimes they neglect circumstances when individualizing rights and duties is going to cause problems rather than solve them. I am interested in figuring out what the scale of the property system ought to be. I am also interested in figuring out when there are a lot of people living in a resource system, which community or group might be the best repository of rights-- the gatekeeper people or the bottleneck people. Which community or group is in the best position to monitor the use of the resource?
These are things that I've written about already, but I want to keep going with contemporary applications related to these 'when', 'where', and 'how' questions. Since what we are supposed to be talking about today is what we are working on now or what our research plans are, I thought I would just spell out a couple of the things that I am interested in doing. I may not be the right person to do some of these things, but these are, nonetheless, issues that I am really interested in. One family of questions and projects I have in mind for myself has to do with legal issues: how to create legal forums to operate the foundation for common property systems that don't create new problems?
All legal transformations imply a transfer of wealth, or a taking (I want to use an Anglo-American common law language) of wealth. And, all creation of new rights, where there were none, create barriers to the newly excluded. Those are potentially inflammatory political problems that I think we ought to be thinking about when we are designing the right systems. I think it might be possible to learn a little bit about what problems to expect, and maybe even how to reduce them in size, if we examine systems that have successfully coped with legal changes and rearrangements--moving rights from one guardian to another.
I am also interested in how to avoid confusion in creating new systems of common property rights. I can give you an example from the Japanese setting that I have done research in. Modern law in Japan makes individual persons the repository of rights, but traditional law that is enshrined equally in the civil code makes households the owners of common property rights, and this will create problems. Probably, when the Japanese put this all down on paper they didn't anticipate the problems they were creating. It strikes me as important to study the ways societies, that have legalized common property, already have coped with these problems in order to see if we can avoid causing them in new contexts.
I'm also very interested in commercial issues and that's related to questions about putting certain strands in a bundle of property rights and removing certain strands from a bundle. Many people in the property rights school of economic analysis are fans of fully intact bundles of property rights. They want all the rights in one bundle and they want one owner for that bundle. I think the lesson from our twentieth century experiences with externalities is that we can't do that; we have to be breaking the bundle back up again. We need some intelligent rule of thumb to figure out how to break apart the bundle. That can include salability, or the salability of products from the commons, or the salability of rights to the commons. There's a big debate between people who think that a community should have all the property rights to a resource system including the right to sell that resource system off, for example, to build K-Mart or something. There are others who think that some of the rights should be devolved onto a community but some of the rights should not be. I don't think we've thought systemically through the options there. That's an important area for using analysis of the past to figure out what the problems are going to be so we can avoid them in the future
Fiinally I'll end. The thing I'm planning on doing the most with in the near future is applications in new issues in property rights in urban and industrial settings from a study of common property rights. There's really a parallel between mutually agreed restraints in successful common property regimes and regulatory rules in complex societies that impinge on freedoms we used to think people had: zoning, transferable development rights, wilderness and habitat protection. Something as politically loaded as the Endangered Species Act in the United States which says that if a species is discovered to be endangered is on your land, you now may not mess with anything that will hurt that species. What interest me here is a practical issue of historically successful CPR arrangements. If we abstract out the rights and duties involved and look at them as structures of rights, do these offer hints as to how to create economic and environmental regulations that will produce the intended social benefits that people will also find politically acceptable? For me, the objectives are two-fold. We don't just want environmental sustainability; we also want environmental sustainability that people will tolerate politically, that they won't object to.
Presentation 2: Promoting Legal Recognition of Community-Based Property Rights, Including the Commons: Some Theoretical Considerations
Owen J. Lynch
Center for International Environmental Law and Program on Social Change and Development, Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies
Threats to community-based property rights, including the commons, particularly for local people in the majority world (a term I prefer over "developing countries" because most human beings live there), are serious, severe, and getting worse day-by-day. The primary problem arises out of the fact that many, if not most, nation-states in the majority world ignore community-based property rights and instead claim ownership of vast areas of natural resources, including areas inhabited by indigenous and other local peoples.
The extent of these sweeping claims of state ownership is truly staggering. In many countries, the nation-state claims ownership to well over half of the land base. In Indonesia, for example, an estimated 90 percent of the Outer Islands are legally classified by the national government as state owned forest land. These areas are not all forested. (Be wary of equating legal categorizations with actual ground level conditions.) They are, however, home to perhaps more than seventy million people, including over thirty million indigenous. All of these Indonesian citizens are legally deemed to be squatters on public land, regardless of their length of occupancy.
Many rural peoples in Indonesia and throughout the majority world are guardians and stewards of natural resources, including biodiversity reservoirs and carbon sinks, and possess important local knowledge for managing these resources sustainably. Of course, local conditions and cultures vary and not all local people, including indigenous people, respect and protect their natural environments. But all of them are human beings, and on that basis alone should have a fundamental right to participate in decisions that directly impact on their lives and livelihoods. Unfortunately, rural peoples in the majority world in terms of international and national laws are largely ignored and many still continue to be forcibly dispossessed from the ancestral homes.
In my work with public interest lawyers from various countries in Asia, the Pacific and Africa, we are striving to amplify the voices of rural people in law and policy making processes on national and international levels. We try to undermine the political economy of ignorance which makes it easy to overlook the presence of rural people and their community-based property rights.
One strategy for doing this involves rethinking prevailing theories of property rights. Most property rights theorists and students rely on a four part typology: private (which is a misnomer because it really means individual), commons, state, and open access (which refers to a situation where no defined property rights exist). This typology has proven to be very useful in distinguishing common property from open access, and has played an important part in challenging the impacts of Garret Hardin's influential article which is about the "tragedy of open access" and not any "tragedy of the commons.
I believe that continued and largely uncritical reliance on this four part typology is hampering the development of practical and effective legal and policy tools for helping local people gain recognition of their community-based property rights, including their common property. The prevailing typology simply doesn't work well in law and policy making nor in project design processes. It overlooks the spatially and temporally dynamic nature of community-based property rights systems. It also promotes the disaggregation of individual rights from the community-based systems in which they exist and are legitimated. The World Bank and most other financial lending institutions, as well as most nation states, promote individuation and disaggregation in the belief that individual property rights are superior to group-based rights as they can be bought and sold, i.e. marketed, much more easily.
Another problem with the prevailing four-part typology is that it implies that there is a distinct and separable commons within community-based property rights regimes. In my work I have found that it is almost impossible to isolate "the commons" within a community-based property rights system. It should be obvious by now that there are usually many different, and often overlapping, types of commons within a community-based property rights system.
I prefer to think of property rights using two conceptual, and interrelated spectra: The first spectra has public on one end and private on the other. Public means it's owned by the state and private means its not owned by the state. The degrees of private and public ownership, however, vary with some private rights being heavily encumbered by state conditionalities such as easements and zoning restrictions, and some public rights being largely unregulated. Private titles, therefore, are not necessarily the strongest type of property right. It depends, as Margaret McKean suggested in her talk, on what's in the bundle. To know what a specific property right entails, whether its a private title or a public lease, requires that you identify what's in its bundle.
The other spectra has individual on one end and group on the other. The group end basically refers to community-based property rights regimes, most of which typically include individual rights as well as common properties. Individual property rights do not only emanate from nation-states. Rice terraces in Southeast Asia provide a good example of this. I've never known of a rice terrace in the middle of a public forest zone in Asia that wasn't individually owned, usually in accordance with a local community-based property rights regime.
The fundamental characteristic of a community-based property rights is that their primary legitimacy is drawn from the community in which they exist, and not from the nation state in which they are located. So when I refer to group rights I am primarily speaking of a local group that provides the authoritative basis for the property rights, and not so much on the specific characteristics of the property rights within the community-based regime.
Cross referencing the two spectra allows for the identification of four types of possible property rights.
1. Private-individual. A private, individual property right is the lodestone of capitalist (Western) property rights and concepts. It includes a Torrens title or a fee simple absolute. A private, individual property right is widely believed to be the best possible type of property right. One reason is that individual private owners tend to have the greatest freedom to use resources as they see fit.
2. Public-individual. This type of property typically refers to a lease to an individual (or a corporation which in some nations is deemed to be the legal equivalent of an individual) of legal rights over land that is ostensibly government owned. Timber concessions are a classic example. Over the past decade in Asia, as the plight of rural peoples has garnered more attention, several countries such as Thailand and the Philippines have also developed programs for conditionally leasing public-individual rights to small-scale forest farmers, usually for a fairly short period of time ranging from two to twenty-five years.
3. Public-group. This category refers to legal arrangements where a government conditionally leases or otherwise delegates property rights, usually for a specific period of time, to a local community or user group. With the growing emphasis on such concepts as community forestry and community-based natural resource management the range of new types of public-group rights is increasing and would include the CAMPFIRE program in Zimbabwe (which is still limited to wildlife) as well as the Joint Forest Management program in India.
4. Private-group. The best (although the most rare and difficult to acquire) option for protecting community-based property rights, including the commons, especially for original long-term occupants of a specific area, would be to acquire legal recognition of private-group rights, a concept that should encompass individual and common property rights within the perimeter of a community-based property regime.
Private rights are less easily canceled, and less easily controlled by the government, which is a major reason why private individual rights are so popular and legally well-entrenched. They also provide more leverage when negotiating with governments and wily outsiders, a benefit many poor rural communities surely could use. Private rights, however, whether individual or group-based are not absolute. No property rights are or presumably ever were completely free from some degree of governmental regulation in the public interest (although some promoters of the "takings movement" in the USA would have us think otherwise). Indeed, I have long argued that rural zoning laws, akin to urban zoning, should be considered to regulate and control unsustainable and/or inappropriate land use in areas that are covered by private rights.
One last point: there is a huge difference in my work, especially for indigenous peoples, between the legal recognition of their community-based property rights and the state granting them property rights. Community based property rights already exist among indigenous peoples, and something is seriously wrong when they are obliged to request their respective national governments to grant them property rights. Indigenous peoples, and many other rural resource users, already have property rights and are seeking state recognition of their rights, not state grants of new rights.
People naturally begin developing attachments to the natural resources in the areas where they live. The more time and labor that is invested in developing a resource, the more the investors tend to think that they have rights to the natural resources they are using. This is not a new insight. Roman law recognized that the first user of a resource had a right to it by virtue of first use; the longer the use, the stronger the right. Indeed, for all the terrible things that have befallen native Americans in the USA over the centuries, the US government seldom referred to them as squatters. Instead, federal courts have long upheld the notion of aboriginal title, a concept dating back to the Roman Empire.
Indigenous peoples and other long-term occupants of so-called public lands clamor for legal recognition of their community-based property rights, including their common properties. The alternative would be to concede that their ancestral domains are public and to ask their respective governments for a grant of property rights. In my experience, that latter option is unfair and difficult to pursue successfully. It is also much more likely to undermine community-based property rights, including the commons.
Owen J. Lynch,
firstname.lastname@example.org Presentation 3: Information, Knowledge, and Common Pool Resources
Workshop in Political Theory & Policy Analysis, Indiana University
To shift gears, my concern is the role of information and knowledge, and the transfer in the area of CPR work. Just the question itself, about information equity and complete flow of information, has been a question that I have become more and more concerned with. Now, on the one hand, its my profession. However, to a certain extent it goes into research because I am concerned beyond what I do on a day-to-day basis.
We have some perplexing elements when it comes to information. The nature of our (IASCP) information is very unique in the world of information management. What aspects of the IASCP make the information unique?
# It is very interdisciplinary. We have people from economics, from anthropology, from sociology, from political science, and other disciplines.
# It is international. We are gathering information from all over the world. Our members normally include people from between sixty to seventy countries.
# There is a multi-sector quality. We have people studying fishery, forestry, irrigation, agriculture, etc. And, there are new types of commons as well; there are urban commons, transportation commons, and internet commons.
# The fact that it is multi-professional. We have people that are teachers in the universities, resource managers, government officials, and students.
# The fact that what we collect is multi-typed; that we are not just interested in research academic publications, but also in gray literature, papers, newsletters, reports, and stories. The universal importance and the relevance of our research, and the fact that we need to collect both theoretical and case studies. And even the way that we think about information differs from most other subjects (if you want to call it that). The fact that it would be easy for someone studying CPR work, to see the relevance of BC fishery to their work on tulip forests in India. So, if we refer to common pool resources as a subject, it must be with the understanding of these areas.
I am really concerned about the role of IASCP, as playing in the information transfer, both for the research findings, that is how they are getting the information out there. How they are servicing their members. And, how they are helping their members, in terms of publishing their works. I think that their work has been quite an abysmal job so far, in the sense that we have so many riches at our hands, and if I start with what the workshop has built up here and the CPR database (the library database is what I am talking about) which Elinor Ostrom actually started in the 1980s I believe. It is an amazing resource, because most libraries in the world take in exogenous systems and try to get their collection to fit into LP, or into the Dewy decimal system. What we do is create our own system and go into the material and make the materials much more accessible to users. The database now has twenty-two thousand records. We just put it out on CD-ROM, its supposed to be here tomorrow. Additionally, the fact that this information is locally controlled is a major asset. We made a decision not to have a commercial publisher publish the CD-ROM with this information. We had the opportunity to make this decision and thus, sell it at a much lower cost. To developed countries, this CD-ROM will costs $45.00. Its already a steal; commercially it would be about $200.00, but to developing countries, majority countries, its $10.00. And, we can do that because we control the information. I think that it is something that IASCP can begin to do with its home page, with its proceedings, etc.
The question that I am thinking about a lot, is what are our responsibilities with this wealth of information, with this incredible, interdisciplinary, international, important area that we are all involved in? What are our responsibilities? I keep thinking about Marshall Murphees keynote address at the 1996 Berkeley conference. He really urged IASCP members to develop strategies of articulation and to develop our roles as interpreters, translators and facilitators of our information of our finding. We have begun to do this with the development of the IASCP home page. The IASCP home page has been up and we have been counting visitors since March of 1997. We have had about a total of 18,000 visitors and 8,000 visitors this year alone. That sounds like a lot. We have attracted new members with it and we provide valuable information. But, considering the enormous activity of the web, the wealth of information, and the potential size of our audience, this is really a very, very small number that we are hitting. There are many reasons for this: the access factors, the design factors, and the publicity factors, but we really need to work on this. I would like to play an active role in this. I am sure that this question about how we get information and receive information, how we not only get our information out, but how we help people provide information to us is very important.
Information Handout distributed to audience
This is an example of, only in the past few months, the kinds of questions that people write us and ask us, and also the kinds of information that we are giving and how we collect information. What you can see is that these are really valuable services that we have. One of things that we need to think about doing is publishing our members papers, and I know that this is very, very controversial. There was a lot of concern at previous board meetings, and board members are concerned about quality control and all types of problems that may arise. But, my feeling is that we are inventing possible problems and creating a kind of fear of these problems, and it is preventing us from letting the world know about our concerns, our research, and our findings. At present, the methods that we are is limiting our research to academic haves, and our audience remains pretty much other academics. We need to broaden our definitions of quality, importance and relevance. We have already begun to recognize that other forms of expressions are valid. By publishing members papers we can let others tell their stories, stories that would not qualify for inclusion in western science and social science journals. At the 1996 conference, the theme was, Voices from the Commons, and it made important inroads in this area. One of the presentations was from the Balak community in Mozambique, and they traveled to Berkeley to tell their story about the impact that the knowledge about Campfire in Zimbabwe had on their lives. So they were telling and passing off some very important information, and reading this is very moving, but it would not be published. However, we could do that.
Presentation 4: Setting priorities for conserving bio-diversity: A global, national and local common property management issue needing more attention.
The World Wildlife Fund, Biodiversity
Thank you. It's great to be here. I am going to briefly introduce you to some of the commons-related issues around biodiversity, and, in particular, the cross-commons issues that emerge in priority setting exercises.
Conflicts between stakeholder groups:
# costs & benefits
# recognized authority
# political issues related to collaboration
Biodiversity has been increasingly claimed as a global commons by biologists, and by national governments and international organizations acting on biologists' advice.
Here is a map of the Global 200 priority sites for conservation action. Biodiversity wasn't seen as a global commons until very recently. In 1986, the National Academy of Sciences held the first national forum that recognized biodiversity as a GLOBAL commons that needed active management for global stakeholders. I think this map communicates the claim of a global commons that overlaps with particular localities in the world's landscape. So, what are some of the issues that emerge around this global claim?
First, there are rights and responsibilities issues: Biodiversity is a global commons that overlays areas and organisms that have been claimed as private group or individual property, as well as areas that have been treated as open access. Second, there are issues related to different visions of biodiversity. There is a wide range of conflicting visions among stakeholder groups, to highlight that range I've isolated three visions that characterize three broad stakeholders in biodiversity conservation - urban, rural, and biologist.
Overhead-Urban stakeholder's vision
Urban stakeholders' vision:
# charismatic individuals/species
# nature at large
# government's responsibility
# understood by experts
# something saved in some place distant from residence & workplace; zoos and national parks
# potential threat to private property owner
Rural Stakeholders' vision:
# natural resources for local needs
# part of "community"
# open access or common property
# protected area is a threat (they'd kill you if they knew you were drawing circles on the map over their land)
Biologists' expert vision:
Biodiversity is the variation in:
# Earth-our living planet
Biodiversity exists in, and because of, layers of diversity - diversity at the genetic level depends on diversity at the population level which in turn depends on diversity with in the habitat level and so forth. It is clear then that biodiversity is a good that is difficult to divide up.
Why do biologists think bio-diversity is so important? Because evolution depends on this variation as it changes in response to:
# external pressure-- selection
# chance-genetic drift
# interactions between populations-gene flow
Genetic, species, ecosystem levels make up the interrelated whole; So you have to maintain lots of different individuals of different populations under different ecological conditions just to nurture the genetic diversity of any one species. I think you immediately see how a variety of local institutions could contribute to the maintenance of biodiversity depending on the types of land-use patterns that are created. Biodiversity, in the end depends on how people manage these three factors over long periods of time, beyond the lifttime of a single human generation. So, there are spatial and temporal dimensions to biodiversity.
Setting Values Biologists use this vision for selecting the values they use for setting priorities. Priority setting values used by biologists in expert workshops around maps or list of species include:
1. Criteria/values (weights vary)
# level of threat
Biologists are hampered in their analysis by great uncertainties. There is a lack of original data sets and there are no accepted ways to measure biodiversity. For example, how much do we need?
Priority setting has been done at three levels 1. Global Priority Setting
# rare and endangered species
# international treaties
# global hot spots ("top 10")
# global 200 ecoregions
# The biologists' have moved toward more geographic priorities for continents, for oceans, and for the planet as a whole. The map of the World Wildlfie Fund, Global 200, shows a suite of 200 ecoregions chosen to represent the ecosystems and biodiversity of the Earth 2. National Priority Setting endangered & threatened species
# national networks of protected areas
# laws & policies
Local Priority Setting
These are primarily the values of non-biologists'
# local policies & rules (Sacred groves, taboos, seasons)
# local, NGO-facilititate discussions
# local government
# individual choice on private property
Conservationists need way(s) for local and distant users to set priorities and evaluate options for actions together, despite language barriers the needs to be an enforcement that is held accountable. And, there is a need for way(s) to share benefits and costs of foregoing use/change across space and time.
Biodiversity is commons spatially scattered across areas under different property rights regimes and being managed for other priorities. This creates difficulties in convening stakeholders willing to collaborate in priority setting exercises, and it makes it difficult to take action based on whatever priorities are set. This is different from the forest problem and the fisheries problem. In this case, the state doesn't stand to gain from assuming rights over biodiversity (Vs. forests or fisheries. So actionable priorities probably won't arise until there is a strong buy-in at the level of the local commons. And, the kinds of political processes that allow those interests to take action..
Priority setting is a process that needs ways for stakeholder participation, but not yet found. It isn't yet a priority for the United Nations or the WTO. There is no global "body" or network with authority to coordinate the process, and encourage action based on priorities. Modest steps have been made in just getting local voices recognized when national priorities are being set. But, even when biologists want to include non-biologists at the national or provincial level, it is not easy.
e-mail:email@example.com Presentation 5: Land Expropriation, Land Reform, and Communal Tenure in Southern Africa
The Ford Foundation
I am going to take three hundred years of Southern African history and put it into 12 minutes. I want to make a couple of points. The points that I would like to make are related to the three hundred years of African history population and how they affect the community, land, and key resources in Africa. This discussion is an overview of the relationship between colonizing powers and local powers in Southern Africa.
The events that precipitated colonization, included a variety of legislation to move people by land into a labor economy and deny the indigenous population property rights. This resulted in the South Africa land distribution. There is a dualistic nature of tenure communal by design. There are several problems for communal tenure. First, communal tenure is imposed and foreign. Secondly, communities are constrained from attaining full potential. For example, trees. Individuals have access to trees but that access is regulated by various laws and local authorities created by the state. So, people have control of land but not really. In terms of trees, the rights to use depend on their intended use.
How do you make communal property? There is an increased desire to privatize rather than promote communal access. Individuals want more secured forms of communal tenure. In trying to reform land holding systems, government is finding it hard to do this. There are authority problems. Another major cause of insecurity is the centralization of planning and land administration. The local government can't question the national government policy. So, how do you make communal property is a legitimate question. Initiatives must be based in holistic land reform programs that address the expropriatory bases of existing communal tenure regimes.
firstname.lastname@example.org Presentation 6: Common Property Resources in Brazil: Land of Ex-Slaves and Riverine Folk
Centre for Research on Human Population & Wetlands Brazil
I would like to deal with theory and practice in the issues of common property rights. In Brazil, these issues are not something from the past, but something that is being built and rebuilt. These rights are formed as the result of struggles. Some examples involve native tribes as well as Afro-Brazilian slaves. My primary question is the role of researchers in third world countries. Do they have a role? This is very important in Brazil, when native tribes attempt to regain and rebuild their lands. Now, other traditional peoples are claiming common property rights. In James Murobmedzi's presentation, we can see officials are using mangroves as a kind of commons. How can this be applied to Brazil? For one, Brazil is very centralized. It has a very strong oligarchy. It is, perhaps, one of the few places in the world in which neo-liberal policies are conceived, and also implemented. This is possible because of the linkages between development and commerce in Brazil. Most of these commons areas are in the Amazon, and are highly important bio-diversity areas. The invasion of wealthy landowners from the South into the Amazon area is another factor to be considered. In order to build an Afro-Brazilian reserve, a lot of studies are needed and researchers are thus called upon. This became an interesting area of interdisciplinary cooperation--to assist local people to put their systems to work. The main question, and the crux of the problem is that the national government does not recognize communal land in Brazil, but they do recognize private land. This problem is being solved; when a common property system is devised, the state expropriates the land and then gives it back to the groups of people. A local organization handles the title and manages the resources. Through this local organization, land is distributed to individuals and families. Nonetheless, it is still state property - a concession to the local organization. Brazil is facing a revival of community traditions. Over 500 areas are now recognized as communal areas. My question to this group is: what should the role be of researchers in these countries? How can we devising ways and means by which the commons are economically feasible? How can these commons be protected from invasions by landowners, who have influence at the government level? For us, these property regimes and their social relations are being built and rebuilt. We (researchers) have a responsibility to rebuild the commons. This is a theoretical and practical issue that requires cooperation. In this situation, we have to explore the working relationship between practice and theory.
Presentation 7: Scale as a Variable in the Research Design for Eurotenure: Do Tenure Affect Ecosystem Quality? Distinguishing tenure from other factors affecting ecosystem quality of forests.
Department of Sociology and Political Science, Norwegian University of Science and Technology,
Introduction The scale and diversity of human activities cause large-scale alterations in forest ecosystems. Many of the changes are unintended and some are clearly detrimental to the future utility of various resource systems.
In 1993 McDonnell and Picket divided the human impact on ecosystems into three classes "the good, the bad and the subtle" (1993:4). The "good" influences were the ecological alterations associated with densely populated areas: the urban, suburban and agricultural landscapes as these had been altered to satisfy human activities and sensibilities. Most of these alterations are fairly obvious, but they are not usually included in ecological studies. The "bad" influences are the obvious negative impacts caused by some of the activities of humans such as the effects on ecosystem functions of toxic waste, damming of rivers, clear cutting of forests, fragmentation of landscapes, introductions of new species, etc. These are extensively studied by ecologists. The subtle effects (Russel 1993) comprises a variety of inconspicuous and unintended effects including indirect effects, various types of historical and lagged effects and long-distance effects. The "subtle" effects are not necessarily either good or bad. But since they have been mostly ignored by ecology, their long term cumulative impact and possible interaction with other "good" or "bad" impacts remains to be explored. The long term goal is to contribute to the study of one type of "subtle" effect on forest ecosystems: does differences in decision environments of forest users - as represented by tenure categories of private and common property - lead to differences in ecosystem characteristics such as (relatively) high/ low value on biodiversity indicators, presence or absence of certain indicator species, or (relatively) high/ low quantity of biomass? Carlsson (1999) reports that Swedish forest commons do not behave quite like ordinary profit maximizing corporations. Does their different behavior translate into differences in the qualities of their forests? The more immediate aim here is to discuss scale variables in the research design.
In addressing the tenure effects we are reminded that its effects have to be distinguished from the multitude of other simultaneous factors. We need some kind of model to guide the design of the study.
A simple causal model of the human impact on the ecosystem
The problem we want to solve: sorting out the human impact on the ecosystems from the non-human impact, can be conceptualized by the following figure:
Figure 1 Factors affecting the ecosystems
To find quantitative estimates of the true impact of human activity we need to specify the correct model. This means we need to account for variation not only in social variables and resource system, but also in geo-physical characteristics, rate of change in climate, historical legacies and interactions among causal factors.
The figure defines a simple causal structure. The hypothesis is that biodiversity and sustainability measures characterizing an eco-system and its resources are determined by three sets of variable characteristics. One set is the geo-physical parameters (including their history) circumscribing the eco-system and its development. The second set is the human usage(including its history) of the eco-system and its resources. The third set is the long- term trend in climate and its rate of change.
The figure incorporates two complicating features. One is the possibility of correlations between social and geo-physical characteristics. These can be conceived as arising from cultural selection of institutional forms adapted to the historical performance of the geophysical and ecosystem parameters. Decisions on e.g. management rules are not taken without a view to the broad characteristics of the area they are intended to apply to. Cultural adaptations to the geo-physical characteristics of an area will shape the world-view of people living there, their values and perceptions of resources. This affects local choices of institutional solutions in governing resource usage. Such adaptations will usually continue to have an impact for some time also after new conditions emerge.
The other complication is the possibility of interactions between geo-physical characteristics (and/ or the rate of change in these) and the impact of social variables. The consequences of some particular institutional variable may depend on the value of some geo-physical characteristic. For example, clear-cutting a forest may not affect the ecosystem the same way independent of elevation above sea level. The response of the ecosystem to some human disturbance may be affected by the direction and rate of change in climate.
A third complicating feature is not indicated by the figure: the level of analysis. "The explicit recognition that driving forces vary across scales of space and time is often missing in analysis of environmental change, and the omission is even more glaring in much institutional analysis." (Folke, et al. 1998). Again, the focus on policy relevant variables will dictate that the selection of units for analysis is from a level where the impact of policy on behavioral outcomes can be observed. This means that we must collect data at the level of the local communities where the decision making units operate on the forest ecosystem.
Scale of user activities and tenure relations.
It was indicated above that we want to look at the impact of tenure on the quality of forest ecosystems. However, land tenure is not a precisely defined concept, and, even more important, as Gibson, Lehoucq and Williams (1999) observe: "forest conditions are not a function of formal property rights". Thus we need to simplify the question. To avoid as far as possible the de facto situation of open access which sometimes obtain on state owned land, we shall restrict our attention to private property rights regimes: individual property (ordinary private property) and common (or communal) property.
Tenure can cause differences in forest qualities if different tenure relations represent different decision environments leading to different decisions affecting the use of the forest. One immediate implication of this is that a "forest" in the present study has to be a meaningful social unit. It has to be governed by a uniform set of institutions. But decision environments are complex. There is more to them than tenure. We have to design our study so that aspects unrelated to tenure do not confound the observed results. One important factor of this kind is the size/ scale of owner/ user activities.
Scale is by Gibson, Ostrom and Ahn (1998) defined as "The spatial, temporal, quantitative, or analytical dimensions used to measure and study any phenomenon." (Gibson, Ostrom and Ahn 1998). Thus, any scale giving a quantitative measure of the activities of a forest user will allow us to talk about "small" and "large" scale users.
However, a lot of the concern about "scale effects" is rooted in the realization that the causal force of a fixed addition on the scale may not be constant. In other words: the causal impact on the forest ecosystem of a factors such as "number of acres of forest" is non-linear. The reasons for non-linearity are many, including the existence of thresholds, lagged effects and interactions of several causal forces. Modeling such non-linearity is not problematic. But finding enough data to estimate the models is difficult. Since many scale effects - whether linear or nonlinear - will work independent of tenure regime it will be important to control for (remove) the impact of size/ scale. The simplest way is to select cases from the same size/ scale category.
A critical question now becomes: on which scale should we measure size, and exactly how can we distinguish between categories of "small" and "large" forest users? A first criterion is obviously that the scale has bearing on decisions with impact on the forest.
In European forestry at least three basic scales will be of interest:
# the amount of forest subject to the decisions of the unit possessing exclusion rights (individual, community, corporation) - forest area
# the amount of capital invested in the utilization of the forest (perhaps relative to the amount of forest, or relative to the number of persons) - machinery
# the number of persons (owner, co-owners, workers) involved in the utilization of the forest - number of stakeholders
Impacts on forest ecosystems of scales of usage Scale of forest usage
"Small user" v. "Large user"
forest land small effect, large effect Capital invested in machines
small effect large effect , persons involved small effect large effect
These may all have an impact on the forest through activities such as logging and replanting. The activity with largest volume and most visible impact on European forests is by and large logging and replanting of logged areas. But there is a variety of ways for doing the logging and replanting (including no replanting) and cumulatively differential impacts on the ecosystem may be noticeable. If there are systematic differences in choice of logging technology and replanting policy between forest users with different tenure, there may be corresponding differences in ecosystem characteristics.
Any differences in choice of technology and policy may of course have multiple causes:
# the relative prices of machines and manpower,
# the relative prices of the tree species logged and their distribution in the forest,
# economies of scale with given technologies and available area for logging,
# public regulations of technology and replanting,
# differences in value judgements as to how a well kept forest ought to look, and
# differences in value judgements as to the short term and long term future of the forest (differences in discount rates).
The relative price of labor is very much affected by the general industrial policy of a country. Capital versus labor will be part of the decision parameters in the day to day utilization of the forest to a larger degree than amount of forest land will be. To some extent machinery and people will be substitutes for each other. Thus, selecting cases based on "many stakeholders" or "large machines" rather than "large forest holdings" will tend to confound the causal force of general industrial policy and tenure. Of the three basic size scales we will use forest area to select cases of the same size. If the operators of two forests, one individually owned and one owned in common, both of approximately the same size, invest different amounts of capital in the utilization of the forest or chose different replanting policies, despite being part of the same national industrial framework, the differences may at least partly be related to the difference in tenure.
To the impacts of logging and replanting we must add the multitude of other effects, ranging from hiking and collecting flowers to road building and damming of rivers. These are often important, but they are also often outside the immediate control of the "owner-users" we are considering here. In general we want to hold constant the impact of such extraneous factors in this study. This can be done by selecting cases located in the same geographical region, subject to the same public regulations. This will also ensure that local cultural factors not related to tenure are kept constant
Conclusion on design:
The intention is to study if type of tenure has an independent effect on forest ecosystem characteristics such as high value on some biodiversity index, presence of certain indicator species, or (relatively) high quantity of biomass.
By now we have settled on two types of tenure regimes:
# individual property (owned either by a person or by a company), and
# common property (owned by a community). And we have concluded that amount of forest land gives the most valid measure for controlling the effect of the "size" of the user unit.
One comparison of the two regimes is however not sufficient to determine the existence of an effect. The study needs to be repeated. Thus, we propose to repeat the study design in several European countries.
Carlsson, Lars 1999 "Still going strong, community forests in Sweden", Forestry, Vol.72, No.1, pp.11-26,
Folke, Carl, Lowell Pritchard Jr., Fikret Berkes, Johan Colding, and Uno Svedin 1998, "The Problem of Fit between Ecosystems and Institutions", IHDP Working paper No 2,
Gibson, Clark, Elinor Ostrom, and Toh-Kyeong Ahn 1998 "Scaling Issues in the Social Sciences", IHDP Working Paper No 1,
Gibson, Clark C., Fabrice E. Lehoucq, and John T. Williams 1999 "Does Tenure Matter? Property Rights and Forest Conditions in Eastern Guatemala.", paper presented at the Fifth Biennial Conference of the International Society for Ecological Economics, Santiago, Chile, November 15-19, 1998, revised 3 May 1999, CIPEC, Indiana University
McDonnell, Mark J., and Steward T.A. Pickett (eds.) 1993 "Humans as Components of Ecosystems. The Ecology of Subtle Human Effects and Populated Areas.", New York, Springer,
Russell, Emily W.B. 1993 "The Discovery of the Subtle", pp.81-90 in McDonnell and Pickett (eds.) 1993.
List of other presenters:
Bonnie McCay, email@example.comPrivatization and the Commons: Local, Regional, and Global Challenges- A Mostly Piscatorial Perspective
Doug Wilson, firstname.lastname@example.orgTensions Between Science and Participation in Fisheries Management
Discussants: Clark Gibson and Fabrice Lehoucq