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Property rights determine who is entitled to use and dispose of resources, both natural and man-made. They profoundly affect the decisions people make regarding the use of resources, and hence the magnitude of human impacts on the environment.

Property rights entitle one or more people to use a resource (usufruct), to exclude others from its use, to transfer ownership to someone else (e.g., by sale, inheritance, or gift), or to allow someone else to use the property temporarily (e.g., for rent). Property rights may also allow the owner to destroy the property. These rights are conferred by social institutions (e.g., by government) and are subject to renegotiation. Hence, property rights consist of “bundles of rights” that vary in time and place.

The environmental implications of property rights ...

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