Property Rights are Good for the Environment

People tend to take better care of things that they own. This simple truth is apparently beyond environmental activists, whose prescription for saving the environment always involves bigger government and more restrictions on private property rights. But Jonathan Adler writes that in many cases, private property rights might be just the thing:

At the same time there is increasing evidence that a failure to respect and protect property rights undermines environmental stewardship, particularly on private land. This is important in a country like the United States in which a majority of land is privately owned. This problem is most evidence in the context of endangered species. A majority of those species listed as endangered or threatened rely upon private land for some or all of their habitat. If these species are not saved on private land, they may not be saved at all. Yet the Endangered Species Act, in effect, punishes private landowners for having maintained their land in a way that is beneficial for listed species. The end result, as empirical research has shown, is a decline in endangered species habitat on private land.