Whether it’s bison and wolves in North America or rhinos and elephants in Africa, wildlife face a stark reality: Their survival often depends on the actions of private landowners. But some species can impose significant costs on landowners and can even come along with costly regulations and restrictions — so property owners often view them as liabilities instead of assets. Because most species depend on private lands for habitat, these negative incentives can adversely impact wildlife.

PERC’s approach to wildlife conservation seeks to change those incentives by turning wildlife from liabilities into assets, giving private citizens clear incentives to invest in habitat preservation. That can be done by rewarding landowners for making habitat improvements, contracting with property owners to protect habitat, or compensating locals who bear the costs of living with wildlife.

Too often, public policies that aim to protect species end up unintentionally stifling conservation and discouraging landowners from providing critical wildlife habitat. Hunting bans in places such as Kenya, for example, have decreased wildlife numbers, not bolstered them. PERC’s research examines the unintended consequences of wildlife policies and offers market-based solutions to make wildlife an asset for both landowners and the public.

As Aldo Leopold, the father of modern wildlife biology, once wrote, “Conservation will ultimately boil down to rewarding the private landowner who conserves the public interest.” There is no better example of this than wildlife conservation.