Balancing Wood Market Demand and Common Property Rights: A Case Study of a Community in the Italian Alps

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Date
2012
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"Dating back to the Middle Ages, when alpine village communities managed common forests and pastures, common property rights have a long tradition in the Italian Alps. On these common properties and in accordance with rules aimed at regulating and organising the collective use of resources, shareholders have the right of common use of the land. Nowadays, alpine communities are characterised by a historical tradition in the common management of natural resources, a selforganised governance system, high social capital, and a strong collective identity. At present, as many mountainous areas still rely heavily on firewood for the heating of homes and the production of hot water, the right to gather firewood and timber from common forests (bote right) is the most important common property right. In the last few decades, renewable bio-energy production based on forest woody biomass has undergone significant development. According to recent EU policies, there is likely to be further growth in the use of wood for energy production. In Italy, in communities where bote rights still have economic, social, and cultural relevance, the possibility exists of conflicts between decision makers and community members around the use of firewood. This paper focuses on this issue by presenting a case study located in the north-east Italian Alps. The study area is the Municipality of Baselga di Pinè in the Province of Trento, characterised by a historical tradition of common property management. A capacity for modifying and adapting to social, economic, and cultural change makes this alpine community a model of efficiency and good governance. Common forests are administered by organisations and their representatives. Members of the community have bote rights and grazing rights, and firewood represents an important source for domestic heating. In order to analyse potential conflicts between decision makers and community members, a semistructured questionnaire was submitted to the administrators of the common forests and to the shareholders. In order to develop different scenarios of wood use, data deriving from the questionnaires were analysed and combined with data regarding potential wood for energy production. Information derived from such scenarios is important as it helps managers and decision makers to identify on-going trends in firewood demand and can be efficiently integrated into the strategies of the management and government of natural resources."
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common pool resources, property rights, biomass, conflict
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