Property rights in UK uplands and the implications for policy and management
Rural areas are subject to changing and often competing demands. Where agricultural production was once paramount, it now competes with other ecosystem services such as carbon storage, rural amenity, and wildlife habitat. If rural areas are to be managed to produce this broad range of goods and services, then more diverse and complex management regimes are needed. This paper explores the literature on property rights before using a ‘property rights bundle’ approach in the UK uplands to (1) examine the distribution of property rights between stakeholders in a multi-resource system and (2) evaluate the effect of state intervention on the redistribution of property rights and the resulting management regimes. Private land owners were found to be the dominant type of property rights holder and private property the dominant management regime in the uplands of the UK. Government intervention has also created private-state regimes for some public goods such as biodiversity but common property management is still in its infancy with regards to ecosystem services and few stakeholders have claimant rights over resources. As a result, many stakeholders are unable to influence management to produce the goods that they want. A property rights perspective highlights that single management regimes alone are unlikely to manage land sustainably for both private and public goods. Instead, a complex mix of private, private-state and common property regimes are found to be emerging in this multi-resource system. These mixed management regimes have the potential to produce sustainable outcomes but only if the appropriate management regime is matched to each resource, if links are developed between each regime to deal with conflict and if mixed management is adaptable enough to cope with new and changing demands.