Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Private Versus Public Conservation

I always wonder why a transfer of private property into public (meaning government) hands is described in so many media reports as an act of "preservation," or "protection," even though the West's public lands have been mismanaged by federal bureaucrats on a scandalously-massive scale. Private land owners tend to be far better conservationists not only because they have the pride of ownership but because, unlike red tape- and litigation-bound federal agencies, they are free to actively manage their properties for economic and ecological outcomes. The two goals aren't contradictory, contrary to media myth; they're complementary, as this piece in the High Country News reminds us.

It's time to stop stupidly assuming that every transfer of private land into government lands automatically guarantees a higher level of care and stewardship, since the forest health crisis now ravaging the American West is a stinging rebuke to that odd idea. It's time, too, to rediscover the benefits and virtues of private conservation and active forest management -- which just may be the keys to saving the last healthy swaths of forest and rangeland in the West.

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