To Preserve Landscapes, Environmentalists Put Their Money Where Their Mouths Are

A novel approach to land conservation is emerging in the American West, where environmental advocates, ranchers, hunters and rich landowners, are utilizing the free market, rather than the courts, to preserve public landscapes.

Rather than making their case with the government or the courts to prevent drilling for oil and gas in scenic public landscapes, environmental advocates and their partners in the West are taking a novel approach, reports Jack Healy: they're buying out their opponents. 

"For years, conservation groups across the country have hammered out deals to preserve private ranches and old homesteads as parks and open space, rather than see them sold off to become mini-malls or subdivisions. But the federal government is the biggest landlord in the West, and one cannot simply buy a forest or mountain to keep it from being drilled."

"Instead, conservation groups are trying to buy the mineral leases that oil and gas companies purchase from the federal government at regular energy auctions, sometimes for as little as $2 an acre. Conservation groups pay the companies a premium to buy up the leases. Then elected officials draw up laws to ensure that nobody else will be able to drill there in the future. And the land is forever enshrined as open country, locking away whatever resources may lie beneath."

Full Story: On Western Lands, a Free-Market Path

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