Endangered Species

Charging steep fees to hunt endangered species may provide the funds necessary to save them. The black rhino is an example of a program the is being tried in Africa.
James Huffman
By Jim Huffman
Terry Anderson, Reed Watson
This book presents the legal and policy analysis for federalism considerations in implementing ESA.
The Endangered Species Act (ESA) was enacted in 1973 and today is viewed as the most powerful environmental law in the nation as well as one of the most controversial. "Decoupling" the listing decision how the species should be protected how it should be protected could allow more creative measures tailored the needs ad and circumstances of each species.
Jonathan Adler
Whether a given species is at risk of extinction may be a scientific question, but what to do about it is not. What conservation measures should be adopted to address such threats, and at what cost, are policy questions, says Jonathan Adler
Michael `t Sas-Rolfes
Q: In 1998, you authored a PERC Policy Series called “Who Will Save the Wild Tiger?” What has changed in the world of tigers?
Jonathan Adler
Jonathan Adler Editor Also read Tracy Mehan's review in the Environmental Forum
Shawn Regan
Cliven Bundy's battle was born out of a broken system that encourages conflict, not negotiation.
Shawn Regan
When environmental groups buy ranchers' permits, there's no need for the feds to start rustling up trouble.
Laura Huggins
On The John Batchelor Show, Laura Huggins discusses the need to retire the Endangered Species Act for an economic incentive.
Terry Anderson
In an interview on the John Batchelor Show, Terry Anderson explains how hunting in Namibia provides local communities with the right incentives to manage and conserve wildlife.
Laura Huggins
It is time to move beyond the Nixon approach to the environment. The past 40 years have shown how good political intentions — or, at least, political maneuvering — in the name of environmental protection can create perverse economic incentives to do the opposite.
Laura Huggins
Laura Huggins explains how thinking outside the box and innovating can work for the environment as it does for business. Sometimes big change starts with thinking big and perhaps a little outside the box. Take it from enviropreneur Hank Fischer.
Laura Huggins
The Endangered Species Act is expensive and ineffective in its reactive approach to conservation. Laura Huggins explores an alternative system of incentives for environmental stewardship prior to regulatory listing.
It’s a conservation debate that’s as fiery as it gets: Will a legal rhino horn trade save rhinos? Michael 't Sas-Rolfes believes a well-regulated trade is the right answer, and here's why.
Laura Huggins, Todd Gartner
Read the PERC op-ed: Endangered Species Act: On 40th Anniversary, Time to Rethink How We Protect Wildlife 
Laura Huggins
PERC fellows offer "candidate species conservation banking" as a promising development of voluntary exchange through a market-like approach in their San Jose Mercury News op-ed.
Laura Huggins
In June of 2012, the world mourned the loss of the giant tortoise, Lonesome George. The 100-year-old tortoise lived in the Galapagos and was believed to be the last of his sub-species. George served as an ambassador for endangered species—especially in Ecuador where many groups are working to restore not only tortoise populations throughout the archipelago but also to improve the status of other rare species.
Terry Anderson
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to list the African lion as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. But will it actually help the king of beasts?
Michael `t Sas-Rolfes
In 1900, the southern white rhinoceros was the most endangered of the five rhinoceros species. Less than 20 rhinos remained in a single reserve in South Africa. By 2010, white rhino numbers had climbed to more than 20,000, making it the most common rhino species on the planet.
Holly Fretwell
From the New York Times in September:
A lot has been written about PERC’s Enviropreneur Institute lately – and for good reason.
Laura Huggins
The scimitar horned oryx, the addax, the dama gazelle – endangered animals one would expect to encounter in Africa. Yet, as some Texas ranches are proving, helping to bring back large numbers of these endangered species can be a profitable pastime.
Jonathan Adler
Last Thursday, at a congressional hearing, Assistant U.S.
Michael `t Sas-Rolfes
African white rhinos have been saved from extinctionby private owners who used property rights and market incentives to restore the South African population of 20 in 1900 to more than 20,000 today.
It is officially summer and that means PERC is welcoming dozens of visiting fellows ranging from scholars and students to journalists and entrepreneurs. Last week we welcomed Richard Rice, the co-founder and president of the Save Your World Foundation—a nonprofit whose mission is to protect globally significant areas through incentive-based conservation agreements.Richard has more than 25 years of experience in natural resource and public policy analysis, most recently at Conservation International where he served as chief economist. While at CI, he conducted extensive research on the costs and effectiveness of different approaches to biodiversity conservation in the tropics and supervised projects in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. He has published widely on the viability of sustainable forest management and has worked on the development and implementation of a unique approach to conservation.Richard is a 2011 Lone Mountain Fellow at PERC. We thank him for participating in our new Q&A series for The Percolator.Q: In 2010, you founded the Save Your World Foundation with Scott Cecil. What is Save Your World and how does it work?A:  We are the only non-profit devoted exclusively to supporting conservation agreements in developing countries. We serve as a kind of “mother ship” for our projects, providing technical assistance as needed and connecting them to funding sources here in the U.S.One of the things we focus on is hosting project-level endowments. Endowments are a common approach to conservation funding here in the U.S. but are beyond the reach of many projects abroad. They can be an extremely useful tool for project finance. Our projects, for example, have very well-defined recurrent annual costs and matching those costs to an inevitably uneven flow of funding is much easier to accomplish with an endowment.Q: Save Your World advocates a unique approach to conservation—one that uses incentive-based agreements. How do these agreements work?A: Conservation agreements are just that, agreements negotiated with resource owners that define a concrete conservation outcome—usually the protection of a particular habitat or species—in exchange for benefits designed to give resource owners an ongoing incentive to conserve. The type of benefits provided vary but can include technical assistance, support for social services, employment in resource protection, or direct cash payments.How a particular agreement is structured, of course, depends on the setting. One of our projects compensates Maasai herdsman for livestock lost to predators in exchange for their commitment to not kill lions. In effect, it’s an insurance program for the Maasai and it has been tremendously successful in protecting lions. It now covers more than 1 million acres of communal grazing lands.Another agreement provides support for traditional landowners in the Solomon Islands, protecting the largest uninhabited island in the South Pacific. In that case, our benefits include employment as rangers and a scholarship program for school children.Q: What role do property rights play in these incentive-based agreements?A: The property rights involved are absolutely key. It’s really no different abroad than it is here in the U.S. in that respect. It’s all about devising the proper incentives to make conservation happen. The novelty is that until recently these kinds of agreements were not considered possible in developing countries. But in fact, they have proven to be very well suited to that context.It is a bit of a paradigm shift, though, since past efforts have typically sought to benefit resource owners indirectly through markets for so-called “green” products.With conservation agreements you’re paying for conservation directly rather than as a by-product of something else—say some activity that uses the resource you’re trying to protect but in a less damaging way. The problem is that markets for the kind of products that do that are pretty small, and pretty uncertain. And at the end of the day, they’re not really necessary.It is much better to devise agreements to give people things they need in exchange for exactly what you want in return, which in this case is straight-ahead conservation. That way conservation becomes the thing that stimulates local economies by competing with destructive development.All of this, of course, requires that you think about conservation as something that you pay for, just like everything else. That's important because people in developing countries support conservation for the same reasons we do, but as a practical matter they can’t afford to forgo development anymore than we can. They are happy, though, to accept compensation in exchange for conservation.Q: Prior to establishing Save Your World, you worked for more than 20 years as the chief economist at Conservation International. What did your time at CI teach you about conservation and how have you applied to your new position?A: Well, one thing I learned is that one person can make a big difference. That goes equally for people negotiating these kinds of agreements, as well as those helping to fund them. One medium-sized foundation or high net-worth individual, for example, could easily “own” saving the African lion in a large part of its remaining range.These are very affordable agreements and they can be put in place quite rapidly. Someone once called this “warp-speed conservation.” Put another way, the problem is not nearly as daunting as many believe. It is certainly a lot easier to fix than I once thought. That is a very hopeful and important lesson.
Editor's Note: Summers are an exciting time at PERC as we welcome dozens of visiting scholars to our summer fellowships programs. Throughout the summer, The PERColator will be bringing you a new Q&A series with many of our outstanding visiting fellows.    Michael 't Sas-RolfesMichael ‘t Sas-Rolfes is an environmental economist with a focus on the role of markets for biodiversity conservation. He has been actively involved in various private conservation initiatives for 25 years, starting as a financial manager of a private game reserve in South Africa and later conducting research on the role of private markets for wildlife conservation in Africa.Michael worked with Francis Vorhies to set up Eco Plus, an innovative consultancy on business, economics, and the environment. His consulting experience includes work on trans-frontier conservation areas, wildlife trade policy, and institutional reform in protected area management. He has written extensively on various conservation issues, especially relating to trade in endangered species.Michael is a 2011 PERC Lone Mountain Fellow researching international wildlife trade policy. Thanks to Michael for taking time to answer our questions.Q: In 1998, you authored a PERC Policy Series called “Who Will Save the Wild Tiger?” What has changed in the world of tigers since you wrote the paper?A:  A lot has been done. There have been many conservation initiatives, much money spent, and many, many meetings. A wide range of conservation NGOs and even the World Bank established initiatives, culminating in last year’s grand “Tiger Summit” in St. Petersburg in Russia. Unfortunately, however, wild tiger numbers have continued to decline. When I wrote the PERC Policy Series paper, the most recent estimate of wild tiger numbers was between 4,800 and 7,300. Last year the official World Wildlife Fund estimate was 3,200. So in another sense, not much has changed at all – the wild tiger remains in trouble.Interestingly, during this time the Chinese government also announced plans to investigate the feasibility of using farmed tigers to provide a legal supply of tiger bone medicines to their domestic market, citing my PERC Policy Series as a partial justification for this. Conservation NGOs (and the World Bank) reacted in a very hostile way to these proposals and the Chinese have not pursued them any further.Q: In your paper you wrote, “Tiger conservation is, ultimately, an issue of incentives.” What are the incentives and who faces them?A:   Conservation NGOs benefit from the tiger’s charismatic high profile as a means to raise funds, and conservation scientists like to study tigers, so one could argue that they have an incentive to prevent them from becoming extinct. By contrast, rural people living near tigers have to deal with threats to their livestock and children, and human-tiger conflict is a serious problem over most of the wild tiger’s range. Rural people have less of an incentive to conserve tigers, especially when offered large sums of money for tiger carcasses.I believe that the main challenge for tiger conservation is that people living next to wild tigers are the ones who actually control their destiny, and right now those people typically don’t benefit much from the presence of wild tigers. The people who do benefit are mostly far away and don’t have much real control over what happens to tigers. There is a mismatch between who pays the costs and who gets to benefit from tiger conservation.Q: How can tigers become assets instead of liabilities?A:  For something to be an asset, it has to be owned by someone. Right now most wild tigers are typically ‘owned’ by governments, but that is a weak and dispersed form of ownership, which does not benefit or incentivize specific people who control the wild tiger’s destiny. Those people are typically rural subsistence farmers and poorly paid government employees. By creating stronger property rights – i.e. more direct ownership of tigers – one could create ways for more specific groups, communities or agencies to control and benefit directly from tigers. Ways to benefit could include genuine “adopt-a-tiger” schemes, contractual agreements with local people, tourist viewing, and possibly trophy hunting (although this is currently banned). This would give tigers much greater asset value.Q: Should conservationists look toward tiger farming as a viable solution to the decline in wild tiger populations? A:  Tiger farming is one of a range of options to consider. It has the potential to satisfy some of the persisting demand for products such as tiger bone, thereby competing with the black market, which currently provides the only channel of supply. It is not a panacea, but it is also not the threat that some conservation groups claim it to be. The Chinese captive tiger population already exceeds the world’s wild tiger population, and conservation groups worry that some products are ‘leaking’ illegally into the marketplace. However, if market demand for these products persists, it would be a bad idea to try to stop this leakage, because it will simply drive up the value of poached tiger products and stimulate poaching even further.Q: You have also done similar work on protecting wild rhino populations in Africa. You recently launched a website called Rhino Economics. What is the purpose of the website?A:  Rhino Economics provides an information source to a wide audience on all of the economic issues relating to rhino conservation, especially the rhino horn trade. The public tends to be poorly informed on this issue. Most people still think that rhino horn is used as an aphrodisiac and that the rhino horn trade ban is a good idea. My research over the past 22 years shows that the smartest way to protect rhinos is to create strong property rights and market incentives, and the example of the southern white rhino success story provides concrete proof. My research also suggests that the greatest threat to rhinos today is in fact the ban on rhino horn trade. The ban is causing an artificial supply shortage that is driving the price up to outrageous levels and thereby attracting highly-sophisticated organized crime syndicates into the trade.The website aims to provide information at three different levels: 1) a quick overview of the issues for the general public, 2) a more detailed explanation of the issues for those who are more interested or involved in rhino conservation and 3) a comprehensive listing of past academic and policy work I have done for students and practitioners of wildlife policy.


Juliet Eilperin
The Oglala Sioux aim to reclaim their landscape and culture heritage
James G. Workman
A savvy new breed of capitalist is using incentives such as mitigation credits to protect critical habitat and earn profits.


G. Tracy Mehan III
Retooling the Endangered Species Act