International wildlife law and the geography of the commons Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/mc87pt092

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  • Common resources are those for which rights to use, access and management have not been assigned. Common resources are frequently subject to over-exploitation, a phenomenon frequently referred to as the "tragedy of the commons," and solutions to commons problems are often sought through the establishment of rights regimes. An examination of the rights regimes used to govern water and salmon use in the U.S. Pacific Northwest's Columbia River watershed reveals variation both by resource type and political scale (international, national, tribal, state). It is hypothesized that this variation is due to the differing spatial characteristics of the resources in question. To further examine this hypothesis, a scale and space explicit theory of the commons problem is proposed. The theory is used to provide insights into the varied nature of the commons phenomena and culminates with a typology dividing common resources into one of three categories-open access, migratory and fugitive- based on their spatial characteristics. It is shown that the spatial categorization of a given resource need not be static but rather may depend on the political or administrative scale at which the resource is considered, a result suggesting that solutions to a commons problem should also vary across scales. As a first test of the theory, a case study of the use of law in establishing rights to international wildlife is conducted. To undertake the exercise, a typology of the processes by which wildlife may be internationalized is developed, and the world's largest known collection of international wildlife treaties, numbering more than 500, is collected and analyzed. A partial test of the hypothesis relating variation in the rights regimes used to govern international wildlife to the spatial aspects of the wildlife in question reveals that international wildlife law has expanded over time in terms of volume, species coverage, geographic range, and, perhaps most importantly, goals. These changes are themselves due to a combination of improving technologies, increasing recognition of wildlife scarcity, and evolving human values related to wildlife management and use, a finding with important implications for the development of future international wildlife law.
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