Taking Ostrom to Indiana forests

October 13, 2009
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How rich that Elinor Ostrom, the Indiana University professor who won a Nobel prize for economics yesterday, got her nails dirty researching how people in pockets of forests in undeveloped nations allocate their natural resources.

Indiana of course has some of the world’s best hardwood forests. So, how would her theory work here?

Ostrom’s research focuses not on traditional free-market economics or the other extreme of centralized planning, but on how people manage resources when they share the resources in common and make their own rules at the local level.

The rap on common resources—“the tragedy of commons”—is that resources become overused. However, Ostrom found that people who use common property tend to think in terms of making the resources last. They develop rules and acceptable behaviors resulting in more sustainable forests, or water or other resources.

Most Indiana forests have been managed for maximum production of oak, cherry, walnut and other prized species. But environmental groups complain of logging equipment churning up fragile soil and landowners cutting down the best specimens, thus removing their ability to produce seeds.

Timber operators and landowners counter that they care for the land as well as possible in order to maximize their investments, not to mention maintaining a great way of life. Ray Moistner, who leads the Indiana Hardwood Lumberman’s Association, a trade group of sawyers and others in the industry, says forests in the state overwhelming are managed for long-term growth.

In fact, Moistner maintains, the loose-knit network of landowners could be compared to the local groups Ostrom discovered.

“Our lands are sustainable here when left to themselves and to this common group of owners managing their forest land,” Moistner says.

What do you think? Which economic system is best for managing natural resources?

Anyone want to try on Ostrom’s work at a practical level here in Indiana?

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  1. So much for Eric Holder's conversation about race. If white people have got something to say, they get sued over it. Bottom line: white people have un-freer speech than others as a consequence of the misnamed "Civil rights laws."

  2. I agree, having seen three shows, that I was less than wowed. Disappointing!!

  3. Start drilling, start fracking, and start using our own energy. Other states have enriched their citizens and nearly elminated unemployment by using these resources that are on private land. If you are against the 'low prices' of discount stores, the best way to allow shoppers more choice is to empower them with better earnings. NOT through manipulated gov mandated min wage hikes, but better jobs and higher competitive pay. This would be direct result of using our own energy resources, yet Obama knows that Americans who arent dependent of gov welfare are much less likely to vote Dem, so he looks for ways to ensure America's decline and keep its citizens dependent of gov.

  4. Say It Loud, I'm Black and Ashamed: It's too bad that with certain "black" entertainment events, it seems violence and thuggery follows and the collateral damage that it leaves behinds continues to be a strain on the city in terms of people getting hurt, killed or becoming victims of crimes and/or stretching city resources. I remember shopping in the Meadows area years ago until violence and crime ended make most of the business pack you and leave as did with Lafayette Square and Washington Square. Over the past 10 to 12 years, I remember going to the Indiana Black Expo Soul Picnic in Washington Park. Violence, gang fights and homicides ended that. My great grandmother still bears the scares on her leg from when she was trampled by a group of thugs running from gun fire from a rival gang. With hundreds of police offices downtown still multiple shootings, people getting shot downtown during Black Expo. A number of people getting shots or murdered at black clubs around the city like Club Six on the west side, The Industry downtown, Jamal Tinsley's shot out in front of the Conrad, multiple fights and shootings at the skating rinks, shootings at Circle Center Mall and shooting and robberies and car jackings at Lafayette Mall. Shootings and gang violence and the State Fair. I can go on and on and on. Now Broad Ripple. (Shaking head side to side) Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Ashamed.

  5. Ballard Administration. Too funny. This is the least fiscally responsive administration I have ever seen. One thing this article failed to mention, is that the Hoosier State line delivers rail cars to the Amtrak Beech Grove maintenance facility for refurbishment. That's an economic development issue. And the jobs there are high-paying. That alone is worth the City's investment.

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