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Collective Action and Social Capital of Wildlife Management Associations

Matthew W. Wagner, Urs P. Kreuter, Ronald A. Kaiser and R. Neal Wilkins
The Journal of Wildlife Management
Vol. 71, No. 5 (Jul., 2007), pp. 1729-1738
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Wildlife Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4496257
Page Count: 10
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Collective Action and Social Capital of Wildlife Management Associations
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Abstract

In areas with dense landownership patterns, management of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) depends upon collective decision making of landowners and hunters. To resolve conflicts associated with this commons dilemma, wildlife management associations (WMAs) have become a popular mechanism for coordinating wildlife management decisions in private land states, especially in Texas, USA. Social capital, represented by metrics such as trust, reciprocity, and community involvement, has been identified as an important determinant of the success of collaborative institutional arrangements. To determine the influence of social capital on the effectiveness of WMAs, we address 2 research questions: 1) do WMAs exhibit elements of social capital, and 2) what landowner characteristics affect elements of social capital within WMAs? We used a mail survey questionnaire to determine the effect of various factors on the activities and management practices in 4 WMAs in 2 regions in Texas: the Lower Post Oak Savannah (LPOS) and the Central Post Oak Savannah (CPOS). The LPOS landowners were members of larger associations, had generally acquired their land more recently, held more frequent meetings, and tended to have longer association membership than CPOS landowners, yet they exhibited lower social capital. The CPOS landowners owned significantly larger properties, and were predominantly absentee wealthy males that considered relaxation and hunting more important land uses than property ownership for a place to live. The smaller group size of the CPOS associations may be the most important factor in building and maintaining social capital. Intra-association trust, a primary measure of social capital, was positively influenced by the longevity of property ownership, the number of association meetings, the percentage of males in the association, and other factors. Conversely, negative influences on trust included absentee ownership and the proportion of woodland habitat present in each WMA. We suggest that deer are a common-pool resource whose populations are dependent upon collective action by stakeholders. Social capital building within landowner associations could facilitate the sustainable harvest of quality deer and possibly lead to cooperative management of other common-pool natural resources.

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