For centuries, local inhabitants of the southwestern highlands of Saudi Arabia appear to have managed successfully to balance population growth with natural resources under a local tribal self-government. The land management system came under centralized authority after the establishment of the Saudi state in 1932. The state witnessed the integration of various tribes and geographic regions into one unified government. Since 1932, Saudi Arabia has undergone tremendous population and economic growth following the implementation of six development plans. The changes affected the local institutions established by the tribes, which had once governed natural resources use. The breakdown of the old methods of land management now prevents indigenous residents of the area from protecting the forests of the region, and from exploiting them in sound ways as they have done traditionally. In this article, I propose that the current government approach to land management can be modified to return legal title to indigenous residents for the co-management of forests and local resources with pertinent governmental agencies. A new stewardship program could combine scientific knowledge and practice with traditional expertise.

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