John Tierney of the NY Times has a good article out regarding a case of the benefit of environmental concerns via the private exchange of property.
To reclaim the Escalante River canyon, Mr. Hedden bought the permits that entitle Mr. LeFevre's cows to graze on the federal land near the river. He figures it was a good deal for the environment because native shrubs and grasses are reappearing, now that cows aren't eating and trampling the vegetation.
Mr. LeFevre likes the deal because it enabled him to buy grazing permits for higher ground that's easier for him and his cows to reach than the canyon. (He was once almost killed there when his horse fell). He's also relieved to be on land where hikers aren't pressuring the Bureau of Land Management to restrict grazing, as they did for the canyon.
Of course, something this good can not go unchallenged.
Even though Mr. LeFevre and other ranchers along the Escalante willingly sold their grazing permits, local and state politicians are fighting to put cows back on those lands. They say their communities and the ranching way of life will be destroyed if grazing lands are allowed to revert to nature, and they've found sympathetic ears in the Bush administration.
The Interior Department has decided that environmentalists can no longer simply buy grazing permits and retire them. Under its reading of the law - not wholly shared by predecessors in the Clinton administration - land currently being used by ranchers has already been determined to be "chiefly valuable for grazing" and can be opened to herds at any time if the B.L.M.'s "land use planning process" deems it necessary.
That last part really gets my dander. It is the government that best knows how to use the land, yeah, right. You'll see this in any beuracracy, it just can't get out of its own way. Take this very situation. One aspect claims to be protecting the local way of life, while another is making up as many impedements as possible to grazing in order to protect the environment from that very same way of life. Unbelievable.
I really like this idea of protecting the environment by purchasing and not using grazing rights. It sounds very much like the retirement of air pollution credits, another very sound free market method. Too bad that doesn't fit in with the government's desire to make the decisions "for the good of the nation".
Radley had a follow-up to his first post on the topic. If the Sierra Club is on board with the idea, then I might just reconsider my plans to publish a catalog dedicated to stuffed spotted owls.