Whether it’s bison and wolves in North America or rhinos and elephants in Africa, wildlife face a stark reality: Their survival often depends on the actions of private landowners. But some species can impose significant costs on landowners — and can even come along with costly regulations and restrictions — so property owners often view them as liabilities instead of assets. Because most species depend on private lands for habitat, these negative incentives can adversely impact wildlife.
Too often, public policies that aim to protect species end up unintentionally stifling conservation and discouraging landowners from providing critical wildlife habitat. Hunting bans in places such as Kenya, for example, have decreased wildlife numbers, not bolstered them. PERC’s research examines the unintended consequences of wildlife policies and offers market-based solutions to make wildlife an asset for both landowners and the public.
As Aldo Leopold, the father of modern wildlife biology, once wrote, “Conservation will ultimately boil down to rewarding the private landowner who conserves the public interest.” There is no better example of this than wildlife conservation.
Critical habitat designations that penalize private citizens for essential features found on their land discourage them from maintaining or restoring habitat, benefiting neither property owners nor rare species.