The Economics of Natural Environments: Studies in the Valuation of Commodity and Amenity Resources

By John V. Krutilla; Anthony C. Fisher | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
EXTERNALITIES, PROPERTY RIGHTS, AND VALUATION OF RESOURCES ON THE PUBLIC LANDS

1. INTRODUCTION

It has been noted in the report of the Public Land Law Review Commission ( 1970) cited in chapter 1 that the public lands have not been particularly well managed precisely in the area where there is a conflict between the production of commodity compared with amenity resources, i.e., where the production of the former is incompatible with the simultaneous production, or supply of, the latter. While the Public Land Law Review Commission's survey of the problem has been the most systematic and comprehensive to date, perhaps the activities of conservation and environmental organizations have been the more publicized. Court actions brought by such groups as the Audubon Society, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Sierra Club, and the Wilderness Society are mostly of recent origin and of considerable interest. The ability of the citizens' groups to obtain injunctions (irrespective of the Environmental Policy Act of 1969) which in effect challenge administrative decisions of such land management agencies as the Forest Service represents a remarkable change in the ground rules, first, for citizens dealing with their government, and second, for what is admissible as providing standing in damage suits. That is, the courts appear to be saying that individuals who do not have vested private property rights may be regarded as suffering damage incurred from losses through abridgement of continued use of common property resources.

The recognition that individuals or groups without vested rights can have standing in damage suits on these matters leads us to consider in more detail the question of property rights on the public lands and the related question of resource valuation. More specifically, we consider the effect of different assignments of property rights on the valuation of natural areas and related resources in alternative uses. Our results here might be characterized briefly and somewhat paradoxically as follows: although

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