Grassland Governance and Common-Interest Communities
In the United States, today’s ranches are engaging in small-scale nature-based endeavors to diversify their income base. But the geographic boundary of the land they own creates a relatively small area within which to operate, and fragmented ownership diminishes the ability of any single landowner to produce nature-based income. Collective action among nearby landowners can produce a set of resources from which all members of the group can profit. Such action can enhance the economic, social, and environmental sustainability of grasslands and the populations that use them. This article shows that common-interest communities can be used to provide and allocate wildlife and other resources on ranchlands, enabling individual landowners to generate more income from selling nature-based experiences to customers. Common-interest communities are familiar in urban settings but they have not yet been used in this setting. Thus, the article proposes a new approach to ranchland management based upon a familiar set of largely private legal arrangements. More broadly, the article illustrates the relevance of private law and private property to sustainable development by explaining how property owners can use private law to engage in environmentally beneficial and economically profitable enterprises on the vast privately owned landscape of the U.S. Great Plains.
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