To sustainably govern a Social-Ecological System (SES), both the academic literature and practitioners recommend involving a broad range of actors—public or private—from the territory in question. Nonetheless, the presence of actors in collaborative SES governance processes is not a given. Since this presence requires time and energy without direct personal reward, it depends on the actors’ likelihood to embrace a stewardship role, which in turn depends on their relationship with their biophysical and social contexts. This paper studies the role played by actors’ places of residence in their stewardship behavior in collaborative SES governance. To this end, we analyze the attendance patterns of over 600 members of a French River Basin Committee over 26 years, to shed light on the biophysical determinants. We find that individuals’ biophysical experience plays a critical role in motivating ‘place stewardship’ behavior—especially for key groups of actors such as farmers. We discuss the challenges that place stewardship poses for SESs and outline measures for fostering broader SES stewardship.