PERC holds workshops throughout the year to bring together scholars, conservationists, and policymakers to advance the ideas of free market environmentalism. Through research, lecture, discussion, and field visits, workshop participants explore challenges to conservation and help develop innovative solutions.

Many PERC workshops result in a series of publications that summarize the research presented at a workshop. Examples include Back to the Future of America’s National Parks and Distributional Effects of Environmental Markets.

2019 Workshops

What Price to Play: The Future of Outdoor Recreation and Public Land Funding

Directed by Spencer Banzhaf

From its intellectual origins in Milton Friedman’s views of the U.S. Forest Service, PERC has long researched and advocated for better management of federal lands. Many of its proposals have focused on user-pay models. With new bipartisan efforts underway in Congress to reduce the large backlog of deferred maintenance in national parks and forests, now is the time to return to some of these issues to address specific questions regarding implementation of user-pay funding alternatives.

This workshop will bring together experts to address questions such as: how to coordinate pricing across parks and across services, the option to offer optional “pay-what-you-can” pricing as many museums do, new low-cost ways of collecting fees, and the potential advantages of a gear tax similar to the user-pays model of hunters and anglers in the United States. The research would also look at the Pittman-Robertson, Dingell-Johnson models for funding wildlife conservation in America through hunter and angler contributions.

Incentives for Wildlife: Making Species Assets Instead of Liabilities

Whether it’s bison and wolves in North America or rhinos and elephants in Africa, wildlife face a stark reality: Their survival depends on the actions of private landowners. Wildlife can impose significant costs on landowners and can often 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 and undermine the recovery of endangered species.

This workshop would explore ways to change those incentives by turning wildlife from liabilities into assets, giving private citizens clear incentives to invest in habitat preservation. Examples could include rewarding landowners for making habitat improvements, contracting with property owners to protect habitat, payments for ecosystem services, or compensation schemes for 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. The research conducted at this workshop would examine the unintended consequences of wildlife policies and offer market-based solutions to make wildlife an asset for both landowners and the public.

Forests in the New West: Innovations in National Forest Management

Directed by Holly Fretwell

Once considered a model of efficiency within the federal government, the U.S. Forest Service is now often characterized by dysfunction. Today, the agency is hamstrung by layers of regulations and conflicting mandates that prevent or delay forest management. This has created several significant challenges for modern national forest managers, including escalating costs of wildfires, costly litigation that hinders management activities, and conflicts among competing users of national forests.

This workshop will convene academics, practitioners, and other forest management experts to explore the problems with national forest management policy and propose innovative, decentralized solutions that can achieve better outcomes for communities and their environments. The goal of the workshop is both to produce scholarly research on today’s most pressing national forest policy issues—such as wildfire management, forest stewardship, watershed health, and wildlife habitat—and propose creative solutions that could result in more proactive and localized methods of forest management.