Discourse and Realities Around Common Property Resources: Putting the Wise Use Movement in Its Place

"The past decade has seen substantial focusing of attention on conflicts between 'civil society' and the 'state' over issues of natural resource management. In most cases the discourse around resource management issues center around ideas of sustainability, property regimes, and how particular forms of property regimes are more likely to result in sustainable natural resource management practices. This paper will argue that the discourses around common property regimes place excessive emphasis on definitions and typologies of property and ownership and in so doing, ignore looking at the actual terrain of conflict and contention -- that is to say, the battles over the very processes by which access to resources are controlled and regulated by various state and communal institutions. This paper will engage in a comparative analysis of conflicts over management of common property resources (used in the broadest sense to include public and state owned lands/resources) in the western United States and northern India. By comparing cases of natural resource-related conflicts between state institutions and 'civil society' such as the Chipko movement, the Jharkhand movement in India and the Wise Use and Property Rights movements in the U.S., the paper will explore the political ecology of environmental legislation, conservation, set-asides, and other regulations that have curbed local access to public lands and production-oriented use of resources within them. The paper will also analyze the regional economic context, declining government supports and subsidies to local communities, growing unemployment, and lack of alternative economic opportunities in these regions where conflicts over access to common property resources is particularly intense. We argue that focusing on issues of how controls over access are exercised would provide a more useful approach for addressing these conflicts as well as developing alternative approaches to sustainable management of common property resources."
IASC, common pool resources, land tenure and use, forestry