Skip to content

About PERC

All Areas of Focus

All Research

New Frontiers in Western Land Institutions

PERC Office
Bozeman, MT
June 9–11, 2010
Directed by Reed Watson

(for participants only)

Excerpts from papers and author comments

Session One – Contracting for Ecosystem Services

ARTICLE: "A Field of Green? The Past and Future of Ecosystem Services," 21 J. Land Use & Envtl. Law 133

AUTHOR: Jim Salzman, Duke University,

EXCERPT: This is an exciting time to be working in the field of ecosystem services. Major players, from conservation groups to multinational corporations, are waking up to the idea that a focus on services can enhance conservation and earn a competitive return on investment. Governments at the local, national and international levels are increasingly aware of the potential for an explicit focus on conserving ecosystem services and creating service markets. As never before, academic researchers face both the daunting responsibility and refreshing opportunity to examine how to move the theory of service market creation to practice.

CASE STUDY: "New Frontiers for a Prairie Economy: Connecting Conservation and Rural Development in the Northern Great Plains."

AUTHOR: Curt Freese, World Wildlife Fund,

EXCERPT: Rural communities and landowners of the Great Plains are at a crossroads. The intersection involves towns that are struggling to survive, a generational transition in land ownership, an important but uncertain future for agriculture, and prairie ecosystems and wildlife of importance to both local communities and the American public. This report examines the potential role of a nature-based economy in supporting and diversifying the economic base of the Northern Great Plains (NGP) of the United States (encompasses Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Nebraska). After reviewing the NGP’s economic, demographic and land use trends, we examine the economic values of the region’s natural ecosystems and wildlife and how those values might be converted into tangible benefits for landowners and businesses, and into incentives for restoring and conserving the very land and biodiversity from which those values arise.

Session Two – Public Goods from Private Lands

ARTICLE: "Why Individuals Provide Public Goods"

AUTHOR: David Haddock, Northwestern University,

EXCERPT: This article disputes the notion that the optimal amounts of public goods can be inferred from a theory that was derived to analyze rivalrous goods. Because a public good is not used up as an individual enjoys it, the appropriate amount cannot be determined from the population of users, but instead depends on the relatively strong preferences of the most avid user(s). Surveys that attempt to aggregate amenity value over the entire population miss the mark entirely, even were they capable of eliciting accurate responses. Moreover, the article contradicts the notion that free-rider problems inevitably become more severe as the number of users consuming a public good grows; free riding becomes worrisome only when boundary relevant users become numerous. Finally, it argues that private parties are able to arrange for an efficient amount of many public goods (including the mitigation of public bads) because so many externalities are irrelevant.

CASE STUDY: "Living in the New West"

AUTHOR: Todd Graham, Madison Valley Expeditions,

EXCERPT: Ecological abundance. That’s not a pairing of words you hear too often these days. It’s more common to hear of ecological distress. However, both opportunities and problems associated with great ecological abundance may be seen in Montana’s Madison Valley. Lying just northwest of Yellowstone National Park, the Madison presents an eyeful. Vast herds of elk, pronghorn, and deer, along with migrating waterfowl and raptors frequent the area. With ungulates come the predators. Wolves, grizzly bears, black bears, mountain lions, and wolverines all call the Madison home. As winter drives big game animals from the high elevations of Yellowstone and neighboring Forest Service lands, they migrate to the valley floor and find forage and cover on private lands.

This endowment of public wildlife imposes significant costs on private landowners in the Madison Valley. Elk herds routinely destroy fences and eat forage intended for livestock, while predators occasionally predate livestock. Madison Valley Expeditions (MVE) has pioneered a way to compensate landowners for the provision of wildlife habitat and, in so doing, turn wildlife liabilities into assets. This case study documents the MVE approach to privatizing a public good.

Session Three – Public Wildlife, Private Lands, and the Public Trust Doctrine

ARTICLE: "Managing Western Wildlife Under the Public Trust Doctrine"

AUTHOR: Reed Watson, PERC,

EXCERPT: The article will explain why the public trust doctrine, as an obligation for state wildlife agencies to manage wildlife populations for maximum public benefit, does not preclude and, indeed, may compel states to share rents derived from wildlife populations with the private landowners who provide wildlife habitat and public hunting access. The first section explains the split-ownership dilemma of managing public wildlife on private land. The second section outlines the history of the public trust doctrine applied to wildlife resources, finding little support for the claim that the public trust doctrine prevents states from sharing wildlife revenues with private landowners. The third section explains how contracting with private landowners for wildlife stewardship services is consistent with states’ wildlife trusteeship and indeed may be required to overcome the split-ownership problem.

CASE STUDY: "Public Wildlife on Private Land – An Asset of Liability"

AUTHOR: James E. Knight, Montana State University,

EXCERPT: Aldo Leopold, recognized as the father of modern wildlife management, noted in the 1930s that "the future of wildlife management in the United States rests with private landowners." In spite of this early truism, most of the human interaction with wildlife populations and habitat in the Rocky Mountain West is concentrated on the vast public land areas. Government wildlife management agencies recognize the importance of private land, but the challenge continues to make private landowners full partners in managing wildlife on their property.

Session Four – Communal Property and Community-based Stewardship

ARTICLE: "The Promises and Pitfalls of Communal Lands as Applied to Western Lands"

AUTHOR: Brian C. Steed, Utah State University,

EXCERPT: This paper focuses on communal property as one type of governance arrangement that has been shown to be effective at managing natural resources over long time frames. Communal property arrangements can appear in various forms ranging from formal community ownership in fee (with the full panoply of property rights) to some fraction of property rights such as use and access. In making any claim regarding communal property, it must be clearly stated that communal property is distinct from open access—defined as the absence of enforceable property rights. Open access, or any approximation of open access (such as a system where property rights are assigned, but are never enforced), greatly increases the probability of disastrous outcomes for both the resource and the human system relying thereon.

CASE STUDY: "Community-Based Stewardship in Action: The Devil’s Kitchen Management Group"

AUTHOR: Dave Cameron, Dana Ranch Company,

EXCERPT: This case study explains how a group of private landowners organized a highly effective wildlife management group near Cascade, Montana. Where other landowner organizations have failed to resolve the numerous tensions surrounding big game management on private land, the Devil’s Kitchen Management Group has set the standard for collaborative, community-based wildlife management.

Session Five – Private Rights in Public Resources

Book: Chapters 7 & 8 of Public Lands and Private Rights: The Failure of Scientific Management

AUTHOR: Robert Nelson, University of Maryland,

NOTE: These chapters are publicly available from Rowman & Littlefield, 1995

Session Six – Split Ownership, Rent Seeking, and Post-Contractual Opportunism

ARTICLE: "Rents from the Public Trust: Who Creates Them and Who Gets Them?"

AUTHOR: Terry Anderson, PERC,

EXCERPT: The institutions that govern the distribution of rents from natural resources are a driving force in how resources are used. Those institutions can either provide incentives to maximize rents or incentives to dissipate them. Maximization by private resources owners encourages optimal management of both stocks and flows. Open access, on the other hand, dissipates rents by over harvesting of stocks thus reducing future flows. Rent dissipation under open access calls for policies that can limit access. Privatization is an obvious solution, but not easy to achieve because there can be competition to get the private rights. There is ample evidence that privatization from the bottom up encourages potential owners to limit rent dissipation in the race to privatize.

CASE STUDY: "Achieving Market Rent from State Owned Cottage Sites"

AUTHOR: Clive Strong, Idaho Attorny General’s Office,

EXCERPT: The state of Idaho holds in trust several hundred recreational cottage sites on Payette and Priest Lakes. The Idaho State Board of Land Commissioners ("Land Board") leases these cottages sites to private individuals, some of whom have build high-end vacation homes on the sites. These single-family recreational cottage sites are unlike other public lands in that they are designed specifically to generate revenue for state institutions such as schools. Article IX, Section 8 of the Idaho Constitution requires the Land Board manage state lands in such a way as will secure the maximum long-term financial return for endowment beneficiaries. The Idaho State Board of Land Commissioners specifically acknowledges and accepts its duty to invest and manage the land trusts as a prudent investor would and in so doing to ensure real returns for each endowment . . . perform at or above [the] median compared to relevant peers(State Trust Lands Asset Management Plan 2007, 4, 16). And yet, these recreational cottage sites produce annual rents far below market rent. This case study demonstrates how the division of economic rents is heavily influenced by political economy factors, even when the environmental resources generating those rents are managed via public trust.

Session Seven – Getting Out of the Multiple Use Box

BOOK: Chapters of Who is Minding the Federal Estate?

AUTHOR: Holly Fretwell, PERC and Montana State University,

NOTE: These chapters are publicly available from Lexington Books, 2009.

Related Content