But, many group members join a group to 'do management' for wildlife on a landscape scale beyond their individual property. Could be purchasing animals to stock for the benefit of the group. Could be an effort to bring various types of habitat together under one management scheme. Could be an effort to get rid of invasive plant species (doesn't do you any good to get rid of your thistles if your neighbor doesn't, right?!).
Namibia is ahead of the US in the country-wide implementation of conservancies...check out the Conservancy Association of Namibia to see a map.
But, many landowners in the US are starting to work on similar projects. The question is...how to you set these things up? How do individuals successfully make decisions about resources that are held in common?
In Namibia, wildlife can be owned by individuals, but in the US, wildlife is 'common' property of all people in each state. And, even in Namibia, when you join together with your neighbor, you have just created a 'commons'. Commons are quite hard to manage (think: "Tragedy of the Commons" by Garrett Hardin; think: why most of our marine fisheries resources are a case study in failure of such attempts to manage common property). One conservancy president in Namibia told me, "This conservancy thing is hard work, because you are managing people."
Well, there is some guidance to how to think about proper management of commons (how to manage the people managing the commons). Thanks to my colleague Drew Tyre for finding this information. And, the advice comes from a Nobel Prize winner, Elinor Ostrom (2009 prize for Economics).
These suggestions certainly should be at the forefront of any conversation between a group of landowners considering the creating of a conservancy-type arrangement. During my stint in Namibia, I heard each idea mentioned at least once, but they are struggling with the 'dispute resolution' portions of this list. But, successful Namibian conservancies adhere to the majority of these suggestions:
Define clear group boundaries.
Match rules governing use of common goods to local needs and conditions.
Ensure that those affected by the rules can participate in modifying the rules.
Make sure the rulemaking rights of community members are respected by outside
Develop a system, carried out by community members, for monitoring members’ behavior.
Use graduated sanctions for rule violators.
Provide accessible, low-cost means for dispute resolution.
Build responsibility for governing the common resource in nested tiers from the lowest level up to the entire interconnected system.
Citation: This list was adapted for America: The Remix, the Spring 2010 issue of YES! Magazine, from Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action, edited by Elinor Ostrom, 1990.