Is FME Taking Root?

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by Reed Watson

This report by the World Resources Institute begins as most environmental reports do: with alarming news of man-made environmental destruction and a dire prognosis for maintaining the status quo.

The focus of this particular report is deforestation in the South and the critical importance of protecting "Intact Forest Landscapes" from suburban development.

Nothing new here. Suburban development has long been the bane of wilderness preservationists.

What is newsworthy is the author Logan Yonavjak's interview on NPR. In it, she discusses how paying private forest owners not to sell to developers is a cost-effective way to ensure the continued provision of wildlife habitat and  clean water. She even explains that the consumers of the environmental goods should be the ones who pay!

Advocates of Free Market Environmentalism (FME) should be pleased. There's no call for expansive regulation, zoning, or federal subsidies to solve this environmental "problem." Instead, concepts like  "economic incentives" and "entrepreneurial approaches to pay private landowners" dominate the interview.

Perhaps soon they'll dominate the environmental conversation.

Reed Watson is the executive director at PERC. His research focuses on the implementation of market-based solutions to natural resource conflicts focusing particularly on public lands, water, and wildlife issues. With Terry Anderson and Brandon Scarborough, he co-authored Tapping Water Markets (RFF Press, 2012).Watson holds a J.D. and M.A. in...
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