by Holly Fretwell and Shawn Regan
Property and Environment Research Center (PERC)
Working Paper PERC Public Lands Report February 2015
There is a great divide in the United States. Land in the East is mostly privately owned, while nearly half of the land in the West is owned by the federal government. In recent years, several western states have passed, introduced, or considered resolutions demanding that the federal government transfer much of this land to state ownership.1 These efforts are motivated by local concerns over federal land management, including restrictions on natural resource development, poor land stewardship, limitations on access, and low financial returns.
The resolutions reflect a sentiment in many western states that state control will result in better public land management. To date, however, there has been little research comparing the costs of state and federal land management. Most existing studies assume that the costs of federal land management would be the same under state management and do not consider the different management goals, regulatory requirements, and incentive structures that govern state and federal lands.
The purpose of this report is to compare state and federal land management in the West. In particular, we examine the revenues and expenditures associated with federal land management and compare them with state trust land management in four western states: Montana, Idaho, New Mexico, and Arizona. These states, which encompass a wide range of landscapes, natural resources, and land management agencies, allow for a robust comparison. Our analysis will help explain why revenues and expenditures may differ between state and federal land agencies and explore some of the implications of transferring federal lands to the states.
We find that state trust agencies produce far greater financial returns from land management than federal land agencies. In fact, the federal government often loses money managing valuable natural resources. States, on the other hand, consistently generate significant amounts of revenue from state trust lands. On average, states earn more revenue per dollar spent than the federal government for each of the natural resources we examined, including timber, grazing, minerals, and recreation.
Murray N. Rothbard was the father of what some call Radical Libertarianism or Anarcho-Capitalism which Hans-Hermann Hoppe described as “Rothbard’s unique contribution to the rediscovery of property and property rights as the common foundation of both economics and political philosophy, and the systematic reconstruction and conceptual integration of modern, marginalist economics and natural-law political philosophy into a unified moral science: libertarianism.”
This book applies the principles of this “unified moral science” to environmental and natural resource management issues.
The book started out life as an assigned reading list for a university level course entitled Environmental and Natural Resource Economics: The Austrian View.
As I began to prepare to teach the course, I quickly saw that there was a plethora of textbooks suitable for universal level courses dealing with environmental and natural resource economics. The only problem was that they were all based in mainstream neo-classical (or Keynesian) theory. I could find no single collection of material comprising a comprehensive treatment of environmental and natural resource economics based on Austrian Economic Theory.
However, I was able to find a large number of essays, monographs, papers delivered at professional meetings and published from a multitude of sources. This book is the result. It is composed of a collection of research reports and essays by reputable scientists, economists, and legal experts as well as private property and free market activists.
The book is organized into seven parts: I. Environmentalism: The New State Religion; II. The New State Religion Debunked; III. Introduction to Environmental and Natural Resource Economics; IV. Interventionism: Law and Regulation; V. Pollution and Recycling; VI. Property Rights: Planning, Zoning and Eminent Domain; and VII. Free Market Conservation. It also includes an elaborate Bibliography, References and Recommended Reading section including an extensive Annotated Bibliography of related and works on the subject.
The intellectual level of the individual works ranges from quite scholarly to informed editorial opinion.