emerge precisely at the points where TEAs tend to be least effective as environmental protectors, that is, in coping with locally dense, complex natural systems like forests or wetlands (Salzman and Ruhl, 2000).
It is perhaps for such reasons, among others, that modern environmentalists are now experimenting with ways to provide state assistance and control to community-based resource management. One well-known experiment is Zimbabwe’s CAMPFIRE (Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources), where, under the auspices of state conservation efforts, communities may be treated as wildlife “owners.” The expectation, to some degree already fulfilled, is that these communities’ members will have an incentive to use their knowledge and skills to save the animals rather than deliver them to poachers, because the community will receive revenues from tourism and sport hunting permits (Anderson and Grewell, 1999). In its general outlines, this program is quite similar to an idea mentioned earlier, allocating fishing TEAs to communities rather than to individuals. It is also similar to the Indian forestry programs mentioned, in which larger government agencies coordinate and “nest” community forestry practices.
A problematic feature of such programs is the degree to which central authorities actually do allow revenues—and hence conservationist incentives—to devolve down to local communities (Agrawal and Ribot, 1999). Such problems illustrate a very important larger point: that success in such mixed regimes depends heavily on the probity and administrative capacities of the larger government. Nevertheless, although rent seeking and frictions undoubtedly occur when state agencies become involved in community-based institutions, wider governmental control over decentralized management has the capacity in principle to take advantage of community institutions’ fine-grained resource management practices while helping to overcome their typical weaknesses. Governments can coordinate various communities’ efforts and mediate disputes; they can set overall quotas to channel total demand of all the communities; and they can defend community institutions against outsiders. Indeed, even the ancient Spanish CBMRs for irrigation intertwined state officialdom into their community practices, apparently to serve some of these very functions (Glick, 1979; Maass and Anderson, 1978).
Among institutional economists, it is not news that community-based environmental management has some virtues; CBMRs have acquired something of a cheering section among those who study them. There is some reason to be cautious about joining this cheering section unqualifiedly, however. It might be wise to keep in mind a set of critiques that came from past experience, particularly from American legal institutions. In the past, American courts for the most part were implacably hostile to “customary law” and to any efforts to claim a legal place for customary practice. There were some notable exceptions, such as the acceptance of newly-formed customary norms in certain new industries, as among gold miners and whalers. But unlike British courts, American courts refused to