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Societal and Political Problems of Agricultural Associations in Tyrol/Austria: User Rights vs. Ownership

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Siegl, G.; Schermer, M.
Conference: Governing Shared Resources: Connecting Local Experience to Global Challenges, the Twelfth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Commons
Location: Cheltenham, England
Conf. Date: July 14-18, 2008
Date: 2008
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/1477
Sector: Social Organization
Region: Europe
Subject(s): agriculture
policy analysis
Abstract: "Parts of the agricultural and forest areas in Tyrol have always been used communally, meaning their use had been open for all members of a community. Since the beginning of feudalism the sovereigns (nobility or clergy) were the owners of the land, but without having a serious impact on the exertion of user rights. Between the mid 19th century and the mid 20th century ownership of the land changed dramatically, first it passed from the highest level of hierarchy (the sovereign) to the lowest level (the local municipality) and then later, during the 1950s, in many instances it passed from the municipalities to agricultural associations (Agrargemeinschaften) which was comprised of the agricultural users at that time. Through this process about 400 of the total of 1800 to 2000 agricultural associations in Tyrol have become owners of formerly municipally owned land. Today they are in the centre of debate, as a number of juridical and political quarrels have emerged over their land area. Land use has changed over time and formerly purely agriculturally used land is of high value today. The associations form closed societies which hold substantial amounts of valuable land area and can, as juridical persons, act completely independent from the municipal administration. The enormous structural change of agriculture since the 1950s was not reflected in the static structures of the agricultural associations. This has led to conflicts, (a) within the associations because of non-agrarian majorities, (b) between members of the associations and the village public, because some associations have become unduly rich due to the proximity of their property to the village centres and in particular (c) between associations and municipalities about land resources for communal purpose. "This paper analyses the areas of conflict, which have developed from the transfer of user rights into a static ownership. It explains the reasons in detail and presents the current debate on options to rectify the situation. For regions where such user organisations are currently formed, this paper can provide examples for issues to be aware of, in order to avoid future conflicts."

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