From common property to co-management
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The Basque province of Soule (department of Pyrénées-Atlantiques, France) contains more than 14,000 hectares of common-pool land. This land provides numerous resources, most notably summer pasturage, to the animal raisers of the province who, for centuries, have collectively managed that land under a common property regime. Under this system, the animal raisers must operate within boundaries first set by the French state and later added to by the European Union, although as long as their management actions do not violate those boundaries they operate with relative autonomy. Recent years, though, have seen both the French state and the European Union take a more active interest in commons management. At the same time, biodiversity conservation has arisen as a chief concern of the international community and of EU policy-makers. In 1992, the European Commission passed the Habitats Directive, which, together with the Birds Directive, creates a pan-European network of areas to be managed for social, economic, and ecological sustainability. This network, called Natura 2000, is made up of conservation sites on both public and private lands, and the common lands of Soule are covered almost in their entirety by Natura 2000 sites. The implementation of Natura 2000 is pushing the current system toward one of co-management between resource users, state agencies, and other stakeholders yet to be identified. This dissertation research examines the co-management process that is slowly emerging and compares it to the existing management regime. I discuss how relations between Basques and the French state combine with features of the implementation process to create resistance. I then examine the major themes of resistance and their origins, and explore the particularities that must be considered when moving from common property to co-management. This research not only involved Basque farmers, but also regional, national, and supra-national authority figures, government technicians, and NGO representatives. As a result, it provides a more complete and clear picture of the implementation process and affords the opportunity to examine how different actors across the scale of implementation define and judge success in conservation policy-implementation.