Volume 18, No.1, Spring 2000

A Debate over Conservation:

A Conservative Manifesto?

Peter Huber and Joseph Bast

Private Conservation
Private conservation is, by a wide margin, the most important form of conservation we have. Much of the time, effective conservation is possible on a scale that is commensurate with private ownership and control. We support private conservation initiatives wholeheartedly.

Public Conservation
We recognize, however, that at some point the vastness of White Mountains and Everglades, of river archipelagos and coral reefs and the sheer scope and scale of the most ambitious conservation objectives require a reach to match. That means the reach of local, state, and federal governments.

We recognize that private fences cannot always conserve the value of the wilderness. Great, wideopen spaces are valuable because they are great and open. A vital part of Yellowstone’s grandeur, and our own, is that it belongs not to Wall Street but to America. Value that inheres in citizenship, nation, patriotism: Such values cannot be contained or conserved in any private market. To privatize here is to destroy.

Government can play an essential role in husbanding and expanding the wilderness. The point of conservation is to be economically inefficient and unproductive, to retard conventional economic progress, not promote it, to do so in well-designated places, set aside for that specific objective. Conservative government can and should advance these objectives, where private ownership cannot.

Excerpted from "A Conservative Manifesto," in Hard Green: Saving the Environment from the Environmentalists, by Peter Huber (Basic Books, 1999, p. 201-202).

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