Public Lands

PERC scholars have researched parks and public lands for 35 years. This year, the issue has been front and center. In recent publications, our scholars have outlined potential solutions and practical policy reforms to help protect our land, wildlife, and resources.

PERC’s Recent Work on Public Lands:

Divided Lands: State vs. Federal Management in the West
In light of the current federal lands transfer debate, Holly Fretwell and Shawn Reagan compare state and federal land management in Montana, Idaho, New Mexico, and Arizona. The report explores why state land agencies receive higher revenues per acre than federal land agencies when managed for timber, grazing, minerals, and recreation.

Breaking the Backlog: 7 Ideas to Address the National Park Deferred Maintenance Problem
This year, the National Park Service will celebrate its 100-year anniversary with an $11.9 billion backlog in deferred maintenance projects. We explore seven ideas to address the problem as the agency prepares to enter its second century.

Divided Access: State and Federal Recreation Management in the West

Access Divided: State and Federal Recreation Management in the West
This report explores how federal and state land agencies manage recreation demands. It focuses on lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, state trust agencies, and state park agencies in the 11 westernmost states in the contiguous United States.

Five Myths About the Land and Water Conservation Fund
Amidst the political rhetoric over the reauthorization of the LWCF, several misconceptions have emerged about how the LWCF works and what purpose it serves. In the process, policymakers and other observers have overlooked and misconstrued critical facts.

PERC Reports: National Parks Centennial
The latest issue of PERC Reports celebrates the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service by exploring the past, present, and future of our national parks. Articles focus on how free market environmentalism has helped shape the legacy of our parks, and how it can continue to improve park management.

Charter Forests: A New Management Approach for National Forests
In this policy series, Robert Nelson proposes an alternative approach to national forest in creating “charter forests.” Similar to charter schools, charter forests would have freedom to innovate and accountability. Operating under federal oversight, management would be based on an individual forest, allowing for more creative and locally responsive management.

Roosevelt Arch at Yellowstone's North Entrance. Photo courtesy of Claire Kittle Dixon.

NPS Franchise: A Better Way to Protect our Heritage
As part of the George Wright Forum’s National Park Centennial Essay Series, PERC’s Holly Fretwell proposes an arrangement in which the National Park Service offers a franchise opportunity for entrepreneurs to run new park sites deemed of national significance. Land and structures would remain in private hands, but receive “national park” stature.

Let’s Fix Our National Parks, Not Add More
Originally appearing in the New York Times, Reed Watson and Scott Wilson penned an op-ed calling for LWCF reform. They argue that true conservation is caring for the land and water we already have, not continuing to acquire more in the hopes that it manages itself.

Congressional Testimony on the LWCF
In April 2015, Reed Watson and Shawn Reagan provided testimony to Congress on the reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). In their statements, they explained that using the LWCF to acquire more public lands without first addressing the billions of dollars in deferred maintenance on current holdings would threaten the health, accessibility, and productivity of the lands. Take a look at their testimonies; Reed’s testimony and Shawn’s testimony.