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July 1999 Issue
The Geographical Review
July 1999, Vol. 89 (3), pp. 315-342
SUSTAINING THE STEPPES: A GEOGRAPHICAL HISTORY OF PASTORAL LAND USE IN MONGOLIA
Maria E. Fernandez-Gímenez and Lynn Huntsinger
Keywords: land tenure, land use, Mongolia, nomads, pastoralism.
Recent shifts in Mongolia's politics and economy have changed pastoral land-use patterns and charged debate over how pasturelands are allocated and regulated in a market economy. Absent has been any detailed understanding of the historical geography of pastoral tenure and land-use patterns in Mongolia prior to the socialist era and the collectivization of livestock husbandry. An overview and case study of changing tenures and land-use patterns suggests that in prerevolutionary Mongolia wealth and poverty determined herders' mobility and access to pasture resources; no less is true today. Historical data also reveal dual formal and informal regulatory institutions extant in the past that coordinated patterns of seasonal movement. This amounted to an unofficial tenure system and has contributed to Mongolia's legacy of ecologically and socially sustainable pastoralism.