A Common-Pool Resource Approach to Forest Health: The Case of the Southern Pine Beetle
The southern pine beetle, Dendroctonus frontalis, is a major threat to pine forest health in the South, and is expected to play an increasingly important role in the future of the South’s pine forests (Ward and Mistretta 2002). Once a forest stand is infected with southern pine beetle (SPB), elimination and isolation of the infested and immediately surrounding trees is required to control the outbreak. If insect-infested trees are not swiftly removed, infestations can spread to healthy forests. The most effective approach to managing SPB is through preventive measures that maintain forests in vigorous, healthy conditions, including thinning and prescribed burning. At a landscape level, preventive measures reduce the overall incidence of SPB and thereby the spillover of SPB to adjacent landholdings. Yet many forest landowners do not undertake the management actions that can limit SPB outbreaks. The tragedy of the commons in forest health takes place when individual private owners do not acknowledge their communal responsibilities thus risking catastrophic losses due to poor management and/or absentee tenure.