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Does Tenure Matter to Resource Management? Property Rights and Forests in Guatemala

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Type: Working Paper
Author: Gibson, Clark C.; Lehoucq, Fabrice E.; Williams, John T.
Date: 1999
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/4364
Sector: Land Tenure & Use
Region: Central America & Caribbean
Subject(s): property rights
land tenure and use
forest management
common pool resources
Abstract: "Property rights are central to debates about natural resource policy. Governments traditionally have been seen as the appropriate custodians of natural resources for their citizens. More recently, many argue the privatization of rights will ensure that users have incentives to manage their resources well. Common property, to the extent it is discussed at all, is seen as leading to the tragedy of the commons. We evaluate these claims by assessing property rights and forest conditions in two private and three communal forests in Guatemala. Using measures of social and biological phenomena, we find that de jure property rights are not a powerful predictor of variations among these forests. Instead, we argue de facto institutions and their enforcement are much more important to forest management. Communities holding a forest in common can, under certain circumstances, create institutions to that manage their resources--or more--successfully than private owners."

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