NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 25, 2006

When individuals own and control property, they have an incentive to use it in a sustainable manner because they can then reap the benefits. History provides numerous examples of individuals and private groups who have protected species through private initiatives -- sometimes even while governments were contributing to the species decline, says H. Sterling Burnett, a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis.

For example:

  • When state governments were awarding bounties for killing birds of prey, a concerned citizen helped found the private Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in eastern Pennsylvania to prevent the slaughter of thousands of hawks, falcons, ospreys, eagles, owls and other endangered birds.
  • When state governments were awarding bounties for killing seals and sea lions, a for-profit corporation protected the only mainland breeding area for the endangered Steller sea lion.
  • While the federal government owns only 4.7 million acres of wetlands and has encouraged the destruction of private wetlands, about 11,000 private duck clubs have managed to protect five to seven million acres of wetlands from destruction.

Expanding the benefits of ownership to the preservation of endangered species habitat could encourage more private conservation efforts. For example, government could offer tax incentives or credits to landowners who create habitat for endangered species on their land. Or, the government could pay bounties to people for every breeding pair of endangered species found to inhabit their property for all or part (in the case of migratory species) of the year, says Burnett.

Source: H. Sterling Burnett, "Protecting the Environment Through the Ownership Society --Part One," National Center for Policy Analysis, Policy Report No. 282, January 25, 2006.

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