227 pages, Figs
The common land of England and Wales is an important common resource with multiple, and often conflicting, uses. It provides some of the most ecologically sensitive environments and landscapes, is an important agricultural resource and provides public access to the countryside for recreation. Much common land is degraded and is subject to competing interests: farming, intense recreational use and conservation.
This unique book brings together original historical investigations from four centuries and contemporary legal scholarship to examine the environmental governance of common land from an interdisciplinary perspective. It uses four case studies of common land, and the challenges presented by its sustainable management, to illustrate these themes - from the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales, North Norfolk coast and the Cambrian Mountains. These demonstrate that cultural assumptions concerning the value of common land have changed across the centuries, with profound consequences for the law, land management, the legal expression of concepts of 'property' and the exercise of common rights. The 'stakeholders' of today are the inheritors of this complex cultural legacy, and must negotiate diverse and sometimes conflicting objectives in their pursuit of a potentially unifying goal: a secure future for the commons.
The book also has considerable contemporary relevance. It provides a timely contribution to discussions surrounding the implementation of the Commons Act of 2006. This Act has introduced a new legal framework for the governance of common land by self-regulating commons councils. The case studies set this this within the wider context of institutional scholarship on the governance principles for successful common pool resource management, and the rejection of the 'tragedy of the commons'.
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