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PERC Launches New Conservation Law & Policy Center

  • Kat Dwyer
  • For Immediate Release
    September 20, 2022
    Contact: Kat Dwyer, 406-587-9591, 

    BOZEMAN, MTPoised to build on its success as the national leader in market solutions for conservation, the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) today launched a new Conservation Law and Policy Center in conjunction with a series of actions to advance key policy reforms. As a fully integrated extension of PERC, the center will expand PERC’s impact and establish a direct pipeline from research and idea generation to legal and policy reform. 

    Founded in 1980 as a nonprofit research institute, PERC is dedicated to advancing conservation through markets, incentives, property rights, and partnerships. Today, many leading conservationists have embraced PERC’s ideas, yet significant policy challenges remain a barrier to greater success. Helping policymakers, elected officials, and the court system shape and interpret the nation’s laws and environmental policies is imperative to achieving PERC’s vision of a world with healthy land, water, and wildlife sustained by voluntary, cooperative conservation and incentives for environmental stewardship.

    “The Conservation Law and Policy Center represents the next milestone in PERC’s evolution and growth,” said PERC CEO Brian Yablonski. “While we remain deeply rooted in research, the center establishes us as a ‘one-stop-shop’ for creative conservation solutions. In doing so, we’re building on our success achieving significant policy wins and establishing a strong foundation to play a greater role shaping our nation’s conservation policies.”

    A new approach to environmental policy: Conservation that unites, not divides

    Too often, counterproductive regulations penalize conservation rather than reward it, and red tape restricts government from working with the urgency and flexibility modern conservation challenges demand. Rather than filing lawsuits or advocating for regulations that make conservation a liability, the center advances legal and policy reforms that respect property rights, expand incentives for voluntary stewardship, and empower people to advance conservation through markets. 

    “Our approach is unique in that we don’t impose conservation, we empower it,” said Jonathan Wood, PERC Vice President of Law and Policy. “If we want to create lasting wins for the environment that endure beyond political cycles and escape endless litigation, we must reduce barriers to voluntary conservation and remove perverse incentives. That’s what the new center seeks to achieve through creative law and policy reforms.”

    Poised to make a greater impact

    The center’s work consists of legal and policy research, legislative outreach and education, amicus briefs and agency comments, rulemaking petitions on behalf of PERC and others, assisting partners in putting market solutions into action, and engaging in strategic litigation to defend PERC’s policy wins. In conjunction with the launch, the center announced a series of new legal and policy reform efforts:

    • Convening a national coalition to address forest restoration: As devastating megafires ravage entire ecosystems and communities, scientifically proven forest restoration projects critical to containing severe wildfires are held up for years by litigation and a labyrinth of reviews. The center is leading a coalition of conservationists and sportsmen in urging legislative leaders to address the issue. The policy engagement is based on PERC’s Fix America’s Forests report.
    • Advocating greater flexibility for conservation on our nation’s public lands: The center is filing a petition with the U.S. Forest Service to eliminate “use it or lose it” requirements that block ranchers and conservationists from implementing voluntary conservation practices on federal grazing allotments. The petition builds on PERC legal research soon to be published in the Utah Law Review. If adopted, the reform would allow conservation organizations to reward ranchers for incorporating environmentally friendly ranching changes, reducing the likelihood of conflict and litigation.
    • Improving landowner and state incentives for wildlife recovery: The center is joining the Pacific Legal Foundation in an appeal to defend and restore an Endangered Species Act rule that establishes incentives for landowners to conserve habitat. PERC was instrumental in the adoption of the rule, which is based on its 2018 Road to Recovery report. If successfully restored, the reform would play a major role in accelerating the recovery of many endangered and threatened species that occupy private lands.
    • Educating leaders throughout the environmental law community: The center is partnering with the Coleman P. Burke Center of Environmental Law at Case Western University to share insights on Sackett v. EPA, a major Clean Water Act case that the Supreme Court will hear on Oct. 3. PERC filed an amicus brief in the case outlining how the court should interpret the Clean Water Act to make wetlands an asset rather than a liability for private landowners. A clear standard, PERC argues, will better encourage voluntary wetland restoration and state policy innovation.

    The center’s activities are directly rooted in PERC research, including a groundbreaking study published in the journal Science. In the coming months, PERC will announce additional legal and policy efforts to defend an effective wild horse adoption incentive program, to reduce conflict over grizzly conservation, to support solutions to public access conflicts, and to tackle the wildfire crisis.

    Leadership Team

    The center is under the direction of Jonathan Wood, PERC’s Vice President of Law and Policy. One of the nation’s leading attorneys advancing conservation through legal and policy reforms, Jonathan has litigated environmental cases in the Supreme Court of the United States, federal and state appellate courts, and trial courts across the country. Prior to joining PERC, Jonathan litigated cases concerning the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, and other federal environmental laws at the Pacific Legal Foundation. He also led a successful effort to reform regulation of threatened species to better align the incentives of private landowners with the interests of rare species.

    PERC’s Policy Director, Hannah Downey, leads policy strategy and government affairs efforts to implement key policy reforms based on PERC’s groundbreaking research. She has applied her passion for the outdoors to advance lasting conservation wins since joining PERC in 2015. Hannah has testified before Congress and works closely with policymakers at the federal and state levels on conservation issues, and her work has been featured in media outlets including The Wall Street Journal and The Hill. Working closely with Jonathan, Hannah is poised to grow PERC’s policy impact on pressing conservation issues.

    Learn more about the Conservation Law and Policy Center.

    Written By
    • Kat Dwyer
      Kat Dwyer
      • Marketing & Media Manager

      Kat Dwyer is PERC’s marketing and media manager.

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