| by Kenneth Chase | No comments

18. Property Rights and Public Lands Management

I wanted to continue talking
about property rights and the environment,
and also to talk more about public lands and natural
resource management problems. And I wanted to pick up on some
of the questions that were raised on Tuesday with respect
to the property regime that was created by the State of New York
in the Adirondack Park. And part of the problem with
encouraging people to behave in accordance with law is their
perception of legitimacy of the purpose of the law.
How consistent are their values
with the values that are embedded in law as a mission
statement? So what factors can you imagine
would influence your perception of the legitimacy of a new
regulation? One thing might be the way that
you might have been allowed to participate or were excluded
from the decision making process to set up a new rule to begin
with. Another might be resistance,
annoyance or a perception of immorality that some other group
or individual is imposing their values on you.
So one way to think about the
history of the Adirondack Park is that prior to 1973,
the local governments really had authority to control land
use. After the passage of the law,
the next day, all of a sudden,
they did not have that authority anymore,
and the rights of private landowners were radically
reduced. So they went from a condition
of being rather free to develop their land as they pleased to
one where they really had to understand the technical nature
of law, as well as where they were on
this map that had the force of law.
What zone did they fall within?
And the argument is also,
the perception of legitimacy, is also curiously tied to
science. And what’s the relationship
then between science and law? So that if this law was
designed in a way to prevent damage from being incurred by
new development, then how certain are these
experts sitting inside the government agency that the
damage is likely to occur? What is the likelihood?
Are they thinking about it
formally in terms of probabilities of damages and
magnitudes of distribution of damages?
How are they thinking about the
need to bring evidence, data, and strong science to
questions about damage that supposedly justify these new
restrictions on their liberty? And what would a population
that is low in income, relatively low in educational
attainment compared to other parts of New York,
what’s their capacity to challenge these new regulations?
I mean, do they have the
ability or the money to hire ecologists or soil scientists or
atmospheric scientists, water quality experts,
to challenge the government’s claim that if they build the way
they want to that damage is going to occur?
Also, the idea of compensation,
we’ll talk more about that, especially next week when we
think about climate change in the coastal zone and what that
means for all the property owners and the trillions of
dollars in property value in the coastal zone.
So that under what kinds of
conditions do land owners, can they expect compensation
for loss in property value that’s associated with these new
laws and regulations? And I want to also mention the
work of Max Weber. Max Weber was a social
scientist in the early part of the twentieth century,
latter part of the nineteenth century,
and he wrote about the idea of authority.
And I mentioned on Tuesday,
and I want to reinforce this idea that property is a form of
authority. It basically is a social
relationship among those who are given rights and those are
obliged to follow those rights, to not invade those rights.
In a way, a right is a kind of
a sphere of liberty. And what happened in the
Adirondacks is that this sphere of liberty was reduced,
and it was reduced largely based on the claim of the
government and environmental experts that damage was
occurring from new development and that it should be stopped.
Now, when you think about the
sources of legitimacy and law, if you go back into political
and social theory, you’ll find really three
dominant sources that are commonly mentioned.
You know, one is the authority
of the state to pass law, their sovereign authority,
the state meaning any level of government.
Another would be charisma,
the authority that is commanded by a charismatic leader,
perhaps a religious leader. And the third,
that I find to be most relevant to this discussion today,
is the idea of tradition. So that the idea that there’s
been a traditional pattern of behavior that has been
acceptable in a society. We’ve always been allowed to
sell off five acres a year. Or we’ve been able to develop
when we wanted to. Now you’re telling us that we
can’t do that. So possession is often thought
of as being nine-tenths of the law, I’m sure you’ve heard that
phrase. Well, this idea that tradition
and custom really underlie the sense of legitimacy is really
quite important. So when people have rights
taken away, they appeal to their customary pattern of behavior
and their traditional rights. You might also think about
theories in politics about the origin of property.
How is property derived?
What’s its source?
Well, John Locke argued that
one source was God. God gave humans the right to
expropriate resources from the land.
Another is labor.
And you probably have heard
about Locke’s labor theory. So that if you invest your
labor in improving land, then you are justified in
claiming ownership to the fruits of that improvement.
Another is inheritance.
And Rousseau wrote extensively
about the unfairness of inheritance laws and argued that
inheritance, allowing the next generation to
take the property from the previous one,
that inheritance really is the fundamental origin of inequality
in society. Another is scarcity.
So you can imagine yourself
being alone on an island, as Robinson Crusoe was.
So that there’s really no need
for definition of property rights.
Basically, there may have been
conditions of scarcity, but there was no need to set up
rules about who could get access to the scarce resources.
So that there were other
origins as well, including regulation.
I think I’m becoming fascinated
by the relationship between the act of regulation and the
creation of new property rights. So you might think about what
we all now are concerned about relative to climate change as
being stalled out because we can’t agree on a regulation to
cap the amount of carbon that would be allowed to be emitted
into the atmosphere. So once that cap is
established, that’s going to set the stage for the evolution of
markets and trading schemes among groups around the world.
So that property rights are
often created by regulation in ways that are not generally
perceived. Another idea is that when
government regulates and creates permits or demands that you come
and you get a license, whether it’s a driver’s license
or a license to use a new pesticide,
whatever it is, if you’re required to get a
permit, then that permit automatically
has value, and developers will often buy
land and then try to get approval to develop that land
with no anticipation that they are going to actually carry
through the development. But they’re going to sell that
right. They’re going to sell the land
along with the permit, so that they will basically
accrue the increase in property value that’s associated with a
new permit. And we saw in the atomic
weapons testing area, and also related to private
trade secrecy that secrecy creates property rights.
So that it creates great value
in the secret and there is often a black market in the trade of
secrets. So there are a variety of
different kinds of property. You’re most familiar with the
idea of private property and public property.
But there’s also an idea in the
literature about the commons. So that there are these areas
of the environment or the universe that might be thought
of as commons, where the property rights are
really not well defined. And Garrett Hardin wrote a
piece in 1968 called The Tragedy of the Commons.
If you haven’t read it,
I commend it to you. And it was a piece that argued
that if you have common land with undefined rights to it,
then people are going to try to take advantage of that land.
And he used the example of a
pasture in Great Britain where everybody wanted to graze their
sheep on the pasture. Well, that’s fine until you get
a critical mass of sheep on the pasture and all of a sudden you
lose the capacity of the landscape to regenerate the
grasses. Eventually, as more and more
people come and graze their sheep, then the resource is
going to be degraded and lost. And he was using that as an
argument to justify regulation or a new form of control over
who would have access to the common lands.
We also think about public
lands, I think, in a very simplistic way.
And the rest of this lecture is
going to focus on public lands and also the very,
very different ways that rights can be allocated to public lands
and the implications of that for sustainable resource management.
And also the fact that as you
look out across the landscape or you think about a nation or any
territory, you’re going to have a pretty
complex hybrid among these different forms of private
property. And as somebody who might think
of themselves as pursuing a career to manage environmental
quality, I’m going to make an argument
that you have very little capacity to manage an
environmental problem unless you understand with great clarity
the relationships that are created by these hybrid property
systems. So once you understand the
property regime in an area, you have a much higher capacity
to manage it. And especially next week,
we’ll be talking more about the Fifth Amendment to the
Constitution, “Nor shall private
property be taken for public use without just compensation.”
That presented an opportunity
for courts through the twentieth century to the present to debate
where the threshold is. What’s an acceptable limit on
government authority to take private property?
And when do they cross that
threshold and therefore have to compensate the private landowner
for taking away those rights? So what’s justifiable public
use? This has been heavily debated
in the courts. What government appropriation
becomes a taking? When has land been rendered
valueless? And should government’s
regulation of private property be restricted?
So let’s kind of drop some of
these ideas down onto the Adirondack Park.
And I mentioned that it’s a six
million acre tract of land. And we could have used a
different park or a different area–we could have used
Yellowstone. I’ll use a couple of examples
in a few moments about Yellowstone.
But in this area,
you have six million acres of land about roughly fifty percent
of it is privately owned. And the other fifty percent is
publically owned and was, as I described on Tuesday,
the Adirondack Mountain Reserve.
So that it was Forest Preserve
land that the Constitution of New York protects against any
sort of timber harvesting, any sort of structural
development unless that development is necessary to
protect that land on the part of the State of New York.
And this land has been
classified under the statute that was adopted in 1973,
the Adirondack Park Agency Statute,
into a variety of different categories,
including wilderness in the orange at the top,
so about eighteen percent of the area,
twenty percent of the area now has been designated as
wilderness. Using a standard that is more
rigorous than the federal wilderness designation standard,
which requires only 5,000 acres for a new wilderness area to be
created, there are nearly twenty
separate wilderness areas in the Adirondacks right now.
And the minimum size
requirement to create them is 10,000 acres,
so it’s double the federal standard in the total area
that’s required. They also have primitive areas.
Primitive areas are like
wilderness except that they might have certain facilities on
the interior, perhaps roadways,
perhaps fire towers, perhaps ranger stations,
maybe some electric lines. And these primitive areas
constitute a rather small percent.
Another area is an experimental
area that I’ll show you a slide of in a moment called a canoe
area. And then about twenty-two point
four percent of this public land, twenty-two point four
percent of three million acres is classified as wild forest.
So just think about this for a
moment. This is the largest tract of
intact forest in the eastern United States.
It’s extremely rich in
biological diversity. And it has had this
century-long, longer than a century,
system of control that is embedded in the Constitution of
the State of New York and then further refined by this
Adirondack Park Agency Statute into these different categories
that allowed very different and specific kinds of uses.
Now, think about the definition
of wilderness for just a moment. This is contained in the
Wilderness Act of 1964. “A wilderness in contrast
with those areas where man and his own works dominate the
landscape is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and
its community of life are untrammeled by man,
where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”
Well, this is a very
interesting definition. It implies that the human
presence or any human influence in this area is not tolerable.
So that the Adirondacks,
again with roughly a million and a quarter acres of
designated wilderness offers many,
many opportunities to seek solitude and get off on your own
and test your physical and personal skills.
But what’s quite interesting
about it is that people within these designated areas are
really drawn to a very small percentage of the area.
People are drawn to the
mountain peaks. The one reason why this
mountain peak is bald is because people have hiked to the summit
so often and the soils on the summits of peaks throughout New
England are very shallow. So they’re very vulnerable.
If the vegetation that this
young man is about to jump on, if that vegetation is lost,
the soil that it sits on will be lost,
and it will erode down to bedrock, and thereby,
it will never have opportunity to support additional
vegetation. Kind of interesting,
I’ll show you a clear cut in a western forest in just a moment.
Now I want you to also think
about goals that people have for going into wilderness in
different areas. And I just was looking at the
cost of taking a trip and climbing Mt.
Everest in Nepal.
And for a single climber,
it’s $25,000, for two people,
it’s 40,000, and for seven people it’s
$70,000. It was kind of interesting that
the governments in different parts of the world are thinking
about the right to climb and the value of the right to climb.
At the same time they’re
thinking about the costs that the government might incur if
something goes wrong on those trips and they have to fund a
rescue effort. By the way, Mt.
Everest is about 29,000 feet in
elevation, but Denali in Alaska is about 20,000 feet in
elevation. So if you’re willing to give up
that last 9,000 feet, you can go to the top of Denali
for only $200. By the way, there are also many
parts of the world where climbing parties are required to
post a bond, a bond that would cover the
total cost of an expedition to go in and rescue them in the
case that something goes wrong. Now in the Adirondacks,
another way to think about wilderness, or my view of
wilderness was shifted dramatically.
And just as an aside,
when I was working in the Adirondack Park when I was
younger, my responsibility was to manage
the policy for these wilderness lands.
So that I faced constant
tension and argument and debate about what user group should be
allowed access into which areas. And if a new wilderness area
was being designated, people would fight to keep the
roads open, to keep the ranger cabins open,
to basically maintain these traditional or customary
patterns of use. So one thing that I was struck
by was this tower that sits on the top of Whiteface Mountain.
White Face is the site of the
Olympic training downhill facilities.
And it’s also a national
weather station that started to collect data during the 1970s
and early 1980s that demonstrated that we were
experiencing significant changes in the atmosphere.
We were experiencing increases
in sulfur and sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides that were
producing sulfuric and nitric acids.
And these acids were having an
effect on a forest in the Adirondacks and shifting the
biological diversity, particularly at high
elevations, in ways that really were not anticipated.
Why high elevations and not low
elevations? Well, it turns out that nobody
had really thought about the contribution of fog and clouds
that cluster around mountain peaks as creating kind of an
intense and chronic exposure to the plants or animals that live
in those areas. So that the red spruce decline
in the Adirondacks is now related to this.
The red spruce become
susceptible to a variety of different kinds of insects in
response to their exposure to increased acidity.
A paradox of wilderness and
thinking about how to manage it is that we tend to think about
it as nature and the wild, but it really is a social
construction, and there’s a very strong
association with liberty. And the paradox is that if
you’re managing a wilderness area,
then you have to think carefully about what intensity
of human use it could sustain and still maintain its
character. And many people,
and I am included, think that when I go into a
wild area, I’m not really interested in
signing up at a ranger station and getting a permit go into a
wilderness and being told where I can camp and where I can’t
camp. That kind of defeats the
purpose, in my mind, of what wildness is.
So what’s the origin of that
worry? Well, it’s basically the
association of wildness with personal freedom.
But obviously,
as more and more people want to climb Denali or Mt.
Everest or go in to the high
peaks of the Adirondacks, it raises the question of
carrying capacity. What’s an appropriate limit?
So the Adirondack Park Agency
faced this question with respect to many different ecosystems
that it had the responsibility under this law to manage.
There are some 2,000 different
islands on more than 1,000 lakes and ponds in the Adirondacks.
And these tend to be pretty
small, a couple acres in size. They also tend to be basically
just granitic bedrock that has very shallow soils so that new
development on these islands was quite highly restricted.
And islands are extremely
desirable from a developer’s prospective, and also from the
perspective of recreationists. So that if you were canoeing
down this lake in the Adirondacks and you saw one of
these islands, you probably would want to
canoe over to one and explore it or camp on it.
And the state has built
campsites on these islands. So there are always questions
about how much development and what kind can it sustain.
How much recreational intensity
can it sustain without damage? In this case,
one of the key questions would be sewage disposal,
as I was mentioning with the Camp Sagamore slide back on
Tuesday. So the FOOT group here,
when I was working with FOOT as an advisor some years ago,
the FOOT crew went up to Adirondacks and I helped them
lay out trails through the Adirondacks that seemed like
they were suitable. But it was quite curious,
because the park became much more concerned about loss of
soil on the peaks and the routes and they decided that one
approach was going to be to limit the size of the parties.
I can’t remember the size.
Some of you probably went on
FOOT, anybody in the room? What’s the party size on FOOT?
Student: Each group?
Prof: Yes.
Student: About ten.
Prof: About ten.
Well, this party size has been
now restricted to eight in the Adirondacks,
which basically meant if FOOT was going to keep using the area
that it would have to reduce its party size.
So that there were kind of
interesting questions about cost efficiency and the program
effectiveness related to party size and many logistical
questions, so that they decided to back
out and to move to other sites. So this idea that for any
wilderness area, you would have both a kind of
physical, biological idea of what its carrying capacity might
be. But there is also very
interesting literature on the psychology of wilderness that
has been pioneered by the Forest Service about what people
expect. What do people want?
Do they want to see people when
they go back into remote areas? And most people would presume
that the answer would be no. But then if you look at the
pattern of wilderness use and national park use in our country
and pretty much around the world,
what you see is that wilderness is a playground for social
cohesion in a way. I mean, families go back,
friends go back into remote areas.
So that very few people go into
very remote areas alone. I find that to be kind of
interesting. So that it becomes an outdoor
opportunity for socialization. Another kind of right that you
might not think about is this right to use motor vehicles and
the right of access. And if you allow float plane
operators in the national park or a wilderness area,
you are creating a variety of management headaches.
Now, float planes are not
allowed in wilderness areas. And when we decided we were
going to close off a large number of lakes to motor vehicle
access, either by car or use of boats
or jet skis or access by aircraft,
you can imagine the howls that went up.
Because people had gone on to
the public land as they have in many remote parts of the U.S.
including in large areas of
Alaska. And they have built these camps
on public land. And they claim that they’ve
been using this camp for the past couple of decades,
that their daddy used that camp and that they really have a
right to continue access and continue use.
Well, the strength of the
conflict is really driven by what options they’ve got.
And luckily in the Adirondacks,
remember you’ve got this wilderness category but you’ve
got these other categories as well,
where motor vehicles are allowed.
And they would have similar
opportunities to fly into other lakes.
So that the politics was
managed basically because of the existence of alternative sites.
Still, those people that had
gone back to their camps and invested in building camps,
and some of these camps were actually quite nice.
They had stoves,
they had propane gas stoves, they had heaters,
they had refrigerators. So that these were more than
modest little campsites. The evolution of small,
motorized vehicles has also created a very significant
management headache. So that whether or not it’s a
jet ski or an ATV, the Forest Service,
the Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management,
the Nature Conservancy, anybody who manages a large
tract of land in the United States today is faced with
worrying and trying to figure out how to manage access by
these vehicles. They’re fast,
they’re light, they can basically zip around
and escape rangers. So that the amount of damage
these can cause is really quite interesting.
And many of the users are also
interested in hunting. And the ATVs provide basically
a vehicular method to pull game out of remote areas.
This shot of snowmobiles in
west Yellowstone is also interesting to me.
West Yellowstone,
during the wintertime in periods of peak usage by
snowmobiles, where they have conventions of
thousands of snowmobiles in west Yellowstone,
the particulate and ozone air quality is often worse than it
is in New York City or it is in Los Angeles.
So that there has been an
improvement in the emissions from these smaller engines.
But still, they are
significantly less efficient than our motor vehicle engines,
such as cars. I also wanted to mention that
the Adirondacks has a bunch of scientific experiments.
And one of the values of
wilderness is to provide an environment where scientific
experiments can take place. And the idea that the ecology
and the chemistry of Adirondack ecosystems is being transformed
by our coal burning behavior in the Midwestern part of the
United States, so that the emissions from the
Midwest sweep up the Ohio Valley,
they sweep into Pennsylvania and New York State,
and that’s really one of the predominate sources of the acid
aerosols here. And now these lakes are
basically barren of native strains of trout.
And it’s primarily because
they’re highly dependent upon an acidity level not getting above,
or the pH not getting below a certain level.
In this case,
a variety of different experiments have been attempted,
including liming the lakes. When I was there,
we would fix buckets, these really large buckets of
lime. And helicopters would pick up
the buckets and drop the lime over the lakes in an attempt to
buffer the acidity and make it more suitable for the native
strains of trout. Eventually, this became so
cumbersome and they realized it would cost way too much to apply
this broadly across different lakes and ponds.
That instead,
they thought about genetic modification of fish to increase
their tolerance. So that there are now a variety
of different species of trout that have been genetically
engineered to make them more tolerant.
So that when I mentioned
earlier that my perception of what wilderness is was
transformed by the atmospheric testing that took place on the
top of White Face Mountain, this is what I meant.
Also, if you go back to some of
the old growth timber in the park,
timber that’s been there for at least say fifty or sixty years,
and if you did a core, so in other words if you took a
screw and you cored into the tree and you pulled out a core
of wood all the way from the center of the tree,
you could test back in time and have a chemical replication of
what was in the air during different years.
So one of the interesting
things that you could find is the period between 1945 and
1963, which was the atomic weapons
testing era, you would find the
radionuclides in some species of timber that are of that age up
there. So that in some way,
they become a chronicle of past atmospheric quality.
The Olympic training facility
in the Adirondacks also presented many different kinds
of property rights questions. This is the downhill ski
facility, on top of which is the weather station.
And this has long been the site
of national and international ski racing competitions.
And there was a very curious
debate about this, because this is on Adirondack
Forest Preserve land, and this facility was not
allowed to be built until the Legislature passed on two
successive occasions an amendment to the New York State
Constitution. It’s quite interesting.
So that no development,
remember, could be built on Forest Preserve Lands unless
there was a Constitutional amendment that required those
two successive actions on the part of the Legislature.
So they did this,
but they also constrained the trail width to eighty feet.
Well, the International Olympic
Committee said, “We can’t have a downhill
ski race on a trail that’s only eighty feet in width.
Our racers are likely to go
speeds of eighty, ninety, a hundred miles an hour
in the steepest areas. We’ve got to do something about
that. We want to cut swaths in the
landscape that are– ” In one case,
they wanted to cut one that was about a hundred yards in width
in the argument of safety. Well, the eventual solution was
“No, you can’t cut the trails up to that level,
because that would be a violation of the Constitution.
But instead,
you can install netting on the sides of the trails so that if
the skiers go out of control, they’ll become entangled in the
nets and they won’t hit the trees.”
Kind of a very interesting
debate between the environmentalists on the one
hand and those that are promoting the value of the
Olympics and the international camaraderie and good spirits
that it generates and those concerned about the health and
safety of the ski racers. Another facility that I had the
opportunity to manage the permit issuance for was the ski jump
facility. I don’t know,
are any of you ski jumpers? Probably not here.
But when I taught at Dartmouth,
I had a number of ski jumpers in my classes.
And these facilities are– it’s
a ninety-meter ski jump, meaning that if you take off
from the end, the maximum flight distance,
safe flight distance, is roughly ninety meters.
And then the seventy-meter jump
is next to it. And these were highly contested
because they are the tallest structures now between Albany,
New York, and Montreal. And they lie immediately
adjacent to the High Peaks Wilderness Area.
So the question posed to the
Park Agency was: What kind of effect would these
towers have on the wilderness character of the High Peaks
region? And the Olympic organizing
committee loved the idea. They thought that these towers
would become symbolic of Lake Placid and the Adirondacks being
a winter sports capital and training site for the nation.
But the environmentalists
threatened to sue. They argued that this should
not be allowed, that it is a clear intrusion
into the wilderness character of the area.
Eventually, the State of New
York decided that these towers should be built,
rather obviously, and that despite the
requirement of the National Environmental Policy Act that
demands that whenever federal funds are being expended that
alternative sites have to be explored.
So that in this case that
meant, well, could you find an alternative site where you
didn’t have to build a 350-foot tower?
And the answer was yes.
Several alternatives existed
that would even be lower in cost.
And here’s an example from
Europe of how many European communities such as
Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Innsbruck and the jumps in
Sweden and Norway, they’re built into the hillside.
So basically the problem is,
it’s an engineering problem of sorts.
You know that you have a very
specific profile that is necessary in the jump design and
you also have a specific profile in the landing hill that is
required. It has to be precise,
otherwise the jumpers are in danger.
Also, they need to point north.
Because if the sun comes down
and beats on the track, it can change the consistency
of the snow on the in run and make it unfair for say a jumper
that’s going later in the day. They also have to point in a
direction that is opposite of prevailing winds,
because when a jumper goes off the jump,
you don’t want them blowing around.
So that they have very specific
site design criteria. However, when one was found in
Lake Placid, the National Environmental Policy Act
demanded that that site be considered.
And it was eventually rejected
by the State of New York, which resulted in the building
of that tower. Now one additional example of
an intrusion into wilderness that was being proposed was the
Mt. Van Hoevenberg cross-country
ski run. And this is now a terrific run.
And they have fifty kilometer
races that are held in the Olympics.
And when this was proposed,
people thought, well these trails really don’t
need to be anything perhaps wider than this table on the top
of the podium here. And it turned out that they had
to be quite a bit wider. They needed motorized vehicles
that could move through and they could plough the snow up the way
that a snowcat would at a ski area and that set a track behind
them for the racers to follow. So the question became well,
should we allow motorized access in wilderness areas to
facilitate the development of this facility?
And the answer was no.
The government,
the State of New York decided that instead,
there was an adjacent tract of land that could easily be used
and they would even have to use less land area and cut down
fewer trees if they would use bridges the way that many of the
European communities that have these facilities have done that
cross the trails so that a wooden bridge crosses the trail
so that you don’t have interference as the race
progresses. Wilderness often creates
additional debates about the kind of interior management that
should occur. Should you have facilities on
the interior such as a ranger station?
Should a ranger live on the
interior? Or should the rangers be roving
through the area? Very interesting questions
related to emergency response time.
And the access by helicopter
obviously reduces that response time.
And the advent of wireless
communications makes it much easier to get injured people out
of these areas. But every year,
several people will die in the Adirondacks in the middle of the
winter. It’s famous for its storms
where they start out at say thirty-seven degrees and it’s
raining. And then by maybe eight or ten
hours later, the temperature drops to ten below zero.
So people first get frozen–
they first get cold and then they become hypothermic.
So that response time is really
an important issue. Within the Adirondacks,
they decided to remove the ranger cabins from the interior,
and instead hire more rangers that would have more
requirements for patrolling the interior area.
Kind of an interesting tradeoff
between response time and the wilderness character of the
area. Also really interesting debates
about how to manage fire in wild lands.
And these vary agency to agency.
So the Forest Service has a
very different policy toward managing fires than the National
Park Service has had. And this was very apparent in
the enormous Yellowstone National Park fires that burned
tens of thousands of acres. So imagine the National Park
Service lying next to U.S. Forest Service land,
and the Park Service has a no-burn policy.
Let nature take its course,
lightning strikes, the fire starts,
and we’re not going to suppress it.
So what that meant to the
Forest Service was that their timber leases were quite
vulnerable and the timber companies were claiming they had
private property rights to those timber and the government had an
obligation to ensure that it fought forest fires to the best
of their ability to protect their rights.
So very interesting conflicts
over attitudes about how to manage wilderness,
how to manage nature in its wilder form.
And once you permit a commodity
such as a timber right or a hunting right or a mineral
extraction right, then in a way,
government becomes obligated to ensure continued access to the
corporation to get those rights out of the public domain.
I’d like you to think about a
couple of other ideas about property rights.
And we’re almost running out of
time, and I’m going to give you just this one example here of
development in the coastal zone. This is a tract of land that
lies between Los Angeles and San Diego on the Pacific.
And here you see basically a
planned unit development area where you have gated communities
in the hills overlooking the Pacific,
and they basically ran out of land.
So you can imagine if you’ve
got a town and you lay a grid over it that is one-acre zoning
in the entire town, eventually, you’re going to
have one house on every one of those acres.
And that is then thought of as
the concept of build out, a town is at its build out.
So if that is the case,
then what are you going to do? I mean, I suppose you could
allow people, through a variance to a zoning
ordinance, to build up, to build higher structures.
But in this case,
they granted the developer the right to build a marina.
Now, a marina, what’s a marina?
Well this is some marina.
This marina has hundreds and
hundreds of berths. And these boats are not minor
boats. And you can think about this
one community and think about the process.
The developer goes to the State
of California because the California Coastal Commission
has jurisdiction. It goes to the town of Dana
Point. It eventually has to go to the
Coast Guard and to a variety of other federal agencies to get
permits to develop this. But once they do that,
it creates an enormously profitable business.
Not only do these people have
to pay slip fees, but they have to pay fees for
having their sewage pumped out of their boats.
The town put up recreational
opportunities that the users will pay for.
And the tax revenues to the
community are in the millions of dollars per year because the
community is able to tax the value of the boat.
Some of these boats are forty,
fifty, seventy feet in length. So that the average estimate of
real estate value, the boats are always changing
depending upon who buys a lease to the berths.
But about $250,000,000 in
increased real estate value was created out of what was formerly
public land, common land owned and managed
by the State of California. So I’m going to leave you just
with a thought that managing land is all about managing
property rights and conflicts over access to scarce and
valuable resources. And the Adirondacks provides I
think one pretty interesting example of that because of the
complexity of land classifications that were
created. I tend to think of the
Adirondacks as having dramatically shifted my
perception of the potential for us on earth any longer to
experience wildness. My idea of wildness is not what
it was when I worked there. I had no understanding of the
chemical dimension of the Adirondacks and how humans have
changed the chemistry of the park.
That also raises a very
interesting question about climate change.
So that Melinda Smith,
a professor in ecology and evolutionary biology,
gave a very interesting lecture yesterday about the influence of
increasing temperature and changes in moisture on the
future of grasslands. And she argued that well,
three percent of the world’s grasslands are now in protected
area status, only three percent. However, changes in the
humidity, changes in the temperature are causing
reductions in productivity and changes in biological diversity
that were never imagined when these legal regimes,
such as the Adirondack Park Agency,
were created. Now in the Adirondacks,
you’ve got also changes in temperature and you’ve got
changes in biological diversity. And what that means is that the
approach to managing these property rights has been
insufficient to manage the ecological change that it’s now
experiencing. So it’s dramatically shifting
my perception of what the future of a park and protected area
should be as ecological systems and habitats are literally
migrating through these different parks and protected
areas. So what this means really is
that to tackle, if we had the objective of
managing biological diversity in parks that we really need to
think more closely about its link to climate change.
So that a regulatory regime
that manages climate is really essentially for long-term
effective management of biological diversity.
So, that’s it for today.
Have a great weekend.

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