This book and its companion volume, "Property Rights in a Social and Ecological Context: Case Studies and Design Applications," concern the institutional dimensions of environmental sustainability. Humans interact with their environment through systems of property rights that are embedded in social, political, cultural, and economic context. The outcome of that interaction affects both the quantity and quality of environmental resouraces. It is becoming increasingly clear that although national and international economic policies have often ignored the environment, economic development ultimately depends on institutions that can protect and maintain the environment's carrying capacity and resilience. The knowledge of how property rights regimes, as particularly important types of institutions, function in relation to humans and their use of the environment is critical to the design and implementation of effective environmental protection. This volume presents the theoretical and conceptual background of five general issues of property rights and the environment: the design of governance systems for sustainability; the relationships among equity, stewardship, and environmental resilience; the use of traditional knowledge in resource management; the mechanisms that link humans to their environments; and the role played by poverty and population.