For purposes of analysis, this section takes the following preliminary hypotheses as a point of departure. National arrangements afford greater opportunities to take into account the dynamics of large marine and terrestrial ecosystems and to introduce practices involving whole ecosystem management (Sherman, 1992). But regimes organized at the national level also allow for and sometimes promote commodification or, in other words, large-scale, consumptive, market-driven, and frequently unsustainable uses of targeted resources (e.g., timber, fish). These regimes provide arenas in which the interests of powerful, nonresident players often dominate the interests of small-scale local users. Local systems, by contrast, are apt to favor small-scale uses of living resources that evolve over time from the experiences of resident harvesters. Furthermore, local systems are less tied to market systems, and accord higher priority to sustaining local ecosystems over the long term. Because informal/local and modern/national systems commonly coexist—though they seldom enjoy equal standing in relevant political and legal arenas—actual patterns of land use and sea use are affected substantially by cross-scale interactions between these disparate systems operating at different levels of social organization. In the following subsections, I evaluate these hypotheses with reference to terrestrial and marine ecosystems and illustrate the dynamics involved with brief accounts of the use of forest lands in South-east Asia, grazing lands in the Russian North, and fish stocks in the eastern Bering Sea. But similar forms of interplay involving marine and terrestrial resources occur in many other settings.
The rights of national governments to exercise jurisdiction over all lands and natural resources located within the boundaries of the states in which they operate are widely acknowledged.4 This is what accords governments the authority to promulgate regulations applying to the activities of both owners of private property and users of common property. But beyond this, governments can and often do assert far-reaching claims to the ownership of land and associated natural resources in the form of public property by virtue of conquest (e.g., Russian ownership of Siberia), the exercise of royal prerogative (e.g., the establishment of crown lands in Sweden), purchase (e.g., the acquisition of Alaska by the United States), inheritance (e.g., Canada’s inheritance of crown lands under the British North America Act of 1867), succession (e.g., Indonesia’s claims to lands once owned by the Netherlands in the East Indies as an element in the process of decolonization), or some combination of these claims. In most countries, claims to public property are remarkably extensive. Despite the publicity surrounding privatization, the government of the Russian Federation claims most of the land base of Russia as public property. The government of Canada treats the bulk of the country’s land base as public property.5 Even in the United States, widely