PERC holds workshops throughout the year to bring together scholars, conservationists, and policymakers to advance the ideas of free market environmentalism. Through research, lecture, discussion, and field visits, workshop participants explore challenges to conservation and help develop innovative solutions.
Many PERC workshops result in a series of publications that summarize the research presented at a workshop. Examples include Back to the Future of America’s National Parks and Distributional Effects of Environmental Markets.
Due to uncertainty surrounding Covid-19, PERC is exploring ways to safely and effectively hold our 2020 research workshops. We will actively update participants regarding the use of online platforms or date and location changes.
The Rights of Non-Use: Institutional Barriers to Non-Use Rights to Natural Resources
Directed by Shawn Regan and Bryan Leonard
Robust ownership of natural resources includes a legal right to be left alone, which is a right of non-use. This workshop will gather scholars and practitioners to examine two questions: 1) Why and when do non-use property rights to natural resources emerge? 2) What role does or should the state play in the creation of such rights?
Demands for non-use are increasing as societies place more value on natural amenities and pristine environments. For example, people historically valued forests for timber harvest; water for consumption, agriculture, and mining; and landscapes for commodity production. Today, benefits from standing timber are important, rivers and lakes are valued for their ecosystem services and wildlife habitat, and private land is valued for its open scenery. This raises questions about when, how, and whether rights to non-use—such as keeping water instream and land undeveloped—will emerge as enforceable and transferable assets. Until they do, property rights over such resources remain incomplete, and overuse or misuse will be the likely result. For example, if the only way for farmers to enforce their property rights to water is by using it, overirrigation will be the likely outcome.
This workshop will mix academics from social sciences, natural sciences, and law with practitioners to identify opportunities for and obstacles to strong rights of non-use, and hence improve resource conservation through markets.
Parks Without Politics: Innovative Solutions for National Park Management
Directed by Brian Yablonski
From steaming geysers in Yellowstone to misty mountains in the Smokies, national parks cover some of the most amazing places America has to offer. The National Park Service is charged with caring for these public treasures across more than 400 sites on 84 million acres. It has a pivotal mission “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such a manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”
Effective management of national parks is critical for achieving these conservation goals. But today, parks face significant challenges, including nearly $12 billion in overdue maintenance projects, an amount roughly three times greater than the National Park Service’s annual budget. The lack of attention shows in washed out trails, dilapidated visitor centers, and crumbling roads across the park system. Parks are routinely setting visitation records—an exciting trend, but one that is straining infrastructure and pressuring wildlife and vegetation even more. After relatively flat visitation from the 1980s to the 2010s, visits to the park system have surged over recent years. In 2019, 33 individual sites set new visitation records. Despite these trends, congressional funding for parks is steady or declining.
Amid the booming popularity of parks, politics threatens to undermine the ability of local managers to sustain and protect them. This workshop will explore how the power of entrepreneurship, markets, property rights, and cooperative partnerships can foster better national park management.
Fix America’s Forests
Directed by Holly Fretwell
America’s national forests are rich in commodities, wildlife habitat, biodiversity, and recreation opportunities, yet they are becoming a liability. A century of management practices have disrupted natural fire cycles and forest health. Add to that warm temperatures and dry weather, and the result is overgrown timber stands that are at increased risk of insect infestation and catastrophic wildfire.
Under existing management protocol, wildfire risk and impacts are getting worse. According to the Forest Service, timber mortality now exceeds growth in national forests, and timber harvest accounts for only 11 percent of mortality. The number of trees dying in national forests is rising as a result of insect infestations, drought, and disease caused by overly dense forests. Efforts to increase the pace and scale of restoration on national forest lands will require judicial, administrative, and legislative reforms that can reduce the hurdles to active forest management.
This workshop will bring together experts from academia, industry, conservation organizations, and the Forest Service. Together, we will evaluate the policy barriers that are preventing forest restoration efforts, outline enabling conditions for private conservation funding to help seed projects, and help define a market model that provides a return from removed fuel material and from ecosystem services such as clean water, carbon sequestration, and reduced fire risk to help restore resilience on national forest lands.
Supporting the Conservation of Migratory Ungulates on Private Lands: Developing a Research Agenda
Directed by Brian Yablonski and Arthur Middleton
The western United States harbors at least six species of migratory ungulates, which are recognized for their ecological, economic, and cultural importance. Conserving migratory ungulates is a daunting, long-term challenge because of the herds’ large-scale movements and the social and jurisdictional complexity of the landscapes they roam across. In recent years, several new federal and state initiatives have taken on this challenge, as have a large number of non-governmental organizations. Compared to those available on public lands, the policy and management tools available for conserving migratory ungulates on private lands appear relatively underdeveloped. In some areas, the failure to recognize the costs and challenges associated with seasonally abundant ungulates on private lands—and offer solutions—creates conflict and limits conservation progress.
This workshop will bring together ecological, social, economic, legal, and policy experts to better define the problems associated with conserving migratory ungulates on private lands. By sharing and advancing current research efforts grounded in firsthand knowledge from landowners and partner organizations, we will cultivate new interdisciplinary collaborations to conserve migration corridors.