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OpenMarket: Lands and Wildlife

  • Honeybee Population in Decline—Or Not?

    August 13, 2014 4:14 PM

    If you read the news about honeybee survival, it’s all very confusing. Some sources sound the alarm by pointing out that the number of honeybee hives has dropped significantly in recent decades. Others say just the opposite: There are more hives today than ever before.


    Which is it? Actually, both.  Some regions of the world have fewer hives, while globally there are more commercial hives now than there were in 1960. The key here is to understand which dataset is more important to the debate about sustaining these helpful creatures.


    The Hoover Institution’s Dr. Henry Miller notes in a Wall Street Journal op-ed: “The reality is that honeybee populations are not declining. According to U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization statistics, the world's honeybee population rose to 80 million colonies in 2011 from 50 million in 1960.” Meanwhile Jennifer Sass of the Natural Resources Defense Council responds in a letter to the editor: “The number of managed honeybee colonies in the U.S. has dropped from four million hives in 1970 to 2.5 million today, according to White House statistics.”


    Surprisingly, both of these claims are correct. Miller points to the “global” commercial honeybee-hive count, which has grown considerably. Sass points to domestic colony numbers only, which have in fact declined.


    Miller’s numbers are more relevant because if honeybee survival is really at stake, we would see declines on a global scale. Miller also points out that U.S. and European hive numbers are relatively stable, and Canadian numbers increased. Miller is certainly correct to point out that honeybees are not about to disappear.


  • House Brings Transparency to Endangered Species Act, Still Needs to Protect Property Rights

    July 30, 2014 6:27 AM

    Today the House passed H.R. 4315, the 21st Century Endangered Species Transparency Act. Unfortunately, it likely has no chance of passing in the Senate and word is out from the White House that the president would veto the bill.


  • CEI Sues National Park Service and Interior Department under FOIA over Government Shutdown Documents

    April 23, 2014 1:47 PM

    Last night, CEI filed suit against the United States Department of the Interior and the National Park Service for failing to produce documents in response to two pairs of Freedom of Information Act requests. Those requests, sent to them way back on October 9, dealt with these agencies' closures of private businesses and privately-run tourist attractions in the 2013 federal government shutdown, and also with their closures of public monuments and spaces, which are often open to the public even when no federal employee is on duty.


    The agencies have neither produced documents, nor set an estimated date for when they will be produced, nor indicated how many documents they might produce or withhold, even though FOIA contains a 20-day deadline for an agency to comply with a FOIA request. They have not provided the basic information that FOIA requires within that deadline, such as telling us how many documents they expect to produce (or, if the documents are exempt from production, how many they will withhold under a valid FOIA exemption), even though that information is required under the appeals court ruling in C.R.E.W. v. F.E.C., 711 F.3d 180, 186 (D.C. Cir.2013).


    During the shutdown in early October, these agencies closed down, or blocked access to, many private businesses that had apparently been allowed to operate in earlier shutdowns under prior Presidents (even as politically-connected businesses were allowed to remain open). After lawyers and legal commentators suggested that these closures of private businesses were illegal departures from past agency practice, I filed FOIA requests seeking to find out which officials were responsible for these improper closures, and how the decision to close them was made. Of all the agencies involved, the National Park Service was probably the worst offender, according to CEI's Myron Ebell. A judge later ruled against the National Park Service’s closure of a state park used by children, and against the U.S. Forest Service's suspension of timber operations.


    The Obama administration's behavior during the shutdown was controversial, to say the least. As part of the so-called "shutdown" (which did not actually shut down most of the government -- most federal workers kept working), it shut down tourist attractions -- even when doing so cost the government more money than leaving them open. It rented costly barricades to keep people out of open-air outdoor monuments that don't need to be manned, and are typically open even when unstaffed (like the World War II Memorial).


    And it sent Park Police to drive people out of privately-run tourist attractions on public land, like the Claude Moore Colonial Farm, endangering tourism-related jobs in the process. On October 2, PJ Media’s Bryan Preston reported that the federal government was “ordering hundreds of privately run, private funded parks to close,” using the government shutdown as an excuse.


  • Supreme Court Overwhelmingly Votes to Uphold Rights of Private Property Owners

    March 12, 2014 3:44 PM

    The Supreme Court has decided an important property rights case in favor of the private property owners and against the claim of the federal government by an eight-to-one majority. Surprisingly, the Court’s liberal Justices, with the exception of Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissenting, signed Chief Justice John Roberts’s March 10 decision. In reversing the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Court ruled, in Brandt Revocable Trust et al. v. United States, that a right of way granted to a railroad in 1908 did not revert to the federal government when the railroad abandoned the tracks in 2004.


    The original right of way was over federal land, but 83 acres of that land were patented in 1976 in a land swap with the U. S. Forest Service. The Department of Justice argued that even though those 83 acres had been turned over to private owners, the right of way over that now-private land had reverted to the federal government when the railroad stopped running. Arguing for the Brandts, Steven J. Lechner of Mountain States Legal Foundation stated that the right of way was an easement granted for a particular use, and therefore had expired when its intended use, operation of a railroad, had ended.


    The Chief Justice’s opinion relies heavily on the 1942 Supreme Court decision, Great Northern Railway Company v. United States (315 U. S. 262), in which the Court agreed with the federal government’s argument that the General Railroad Right of Way Act of 1875 only conveyed easements. The majority opinion stated:


    More than 70 years ago, the Government argued before this Court that a right of way granted under the 1875 Act was a simple easement. The Court was persuaded, and so ruled. Now the Government argues that such a right of way is tantamount to a limited fee with an implied reversionary interest. We decline to endorse such a stark change in position....


  • Good News to Share Over the Holidays: The World Is Getting Better

    December 2, 2013 1:53 PM

    In the middle of this holiday season my colleague Stephanie Rugolo over at the Cato's new project, HumanProgress.org, is spreading cheer by getting out the word about the improving human condition. She offered these thoughts which I'd like to share:


    Good News to Share Over the Holidays: The World Is Getting Better


    You’ve heard it all before, “The world is becoming increasingly violent,” “Work-related injuries are on the rise,” “Soon, we’ll have no more forests.” As it turns out, pessimism is often at odds with the real world.


    Long term trends for nearly every indicator of human progress are positive. For instance, forest coverage in rich countries is increasing in line with the Environmental Kuznets Curve. This trend will hopefully continue in the developing world as it becomes richer.


    rugolo pic 1


    According to the International Labor Organization, work fatalities are way down, while economic freedom is on the rise. This should give pause to those who think that free market is synonymous with bad working conditions. Quite the opposite. Economically free countries tend to be richer than economically unfree countries, and richer countries have safer working environments.


     


    rugolo pic 2


     

  • Are California Droughts Natural or Man Made?

    October 11, 2013 10:46 AM

    A ongoing battle in court and public opinion rages in California over the environmental status of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta (both rivers meet, and flow into San Francisco Bay; a rather rare type of system seen in only a handful of places around the world, like the Ganges–Brahmaputra).


    The status of a small fish called the Delta Smelt, as well as salmon, have led to less water allowance for Central Valley agriculture via California's great waterworks infrastructure, an ongoing shock to the most productive agricultural region in the world.


    There's little free market in water anywhere, but we can reconcile that over time via a tad more "separation of water and state." I testified in the Water and Power Subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives Water and Power Subcommittee this week on these concerns. The specific vehicle was H.R. 3176, the Reclamation States Emergency Drought Relief Act.


    My written testimony is linked here (prepared in just a couple days so please excuse typos!); and oral remarks appear below.


    I am Wayne Crews, VP for Policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and I thank the committee for the invitation to address federal drought relief funding and planning.

    I come at this issue from the perspective of one who spends most time on tech and frontier industry policy issues, including compiling an annual federal regulation report called Ten Thousand Commandments.


    Given environmental barriers to urgently needed water in the West, I completely understand the desire for the funding in H.R. 3176; and granted, the dollars sought are trivial in context of current budget battles.


    But I caution against fostering any further “Declaration of Dependence” on federal dollars in any sector.


    The regulatory reforms and infrastructure liberalization actually needed for plentiful, adaptable, environmentally conscious western water should dominate attention.


    The good news is, water is not getting more scarce overall; it’s an earthly constant.


    The bad news is, we artificially interrupt access to water. So management and allocation of that constant supply does matter.


  • Some Genuine Vindictiveness in Park Closings

    October 4, 2013 4:40 PM

    The Washington Times story on the attempted forced shut down of the Pisgah Inn on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina may provide some insight into the attitudes of the National Park Service in shutting down private concessionaires on federal lands that still have open access for the public.


    NPS chief spokesman said: "NPS [is]a single entity....We do not believe it is appropriate or feasible to have some parts of the system open while other parts are closed to the public."


    If other words, if we suffer, you suffer. Appears to be some genuine vindictiveness there.


    Perhaps NPS is worried that if the public sees how well the private concessionaires are running campgrounds, picnic areas, hotels, stores, bookshops and properties such as the Claude Moore Colonial Farm in McLean, Va., which was closed even though it takes no federal money and has no federal employees -- they might begin to wonder why we don't simply privatize all the National Parks and National Forests. Where is the constitutional authority for the Feds to raise trees and own campgrounds anyway?  And there is certainly nothing inherently unique or difficult about these things that make it so the private sector cannot do them. Indeed, the private sector does them much better. Ask your local timber company when was the last time it let forests die from insects, beetles or disease or burn down in catastrophic wildfires.


    And perhaps instead of Republicans introducing bills to provide lost pay to furloughed non-essential Federal employees, they should provide for reimbursement for forcibly closed private concessionaires. With the money to come form budgets of NPS and USFS.


  • How to Have Enough Water for Everybody

    May 28, 2013 11:00 AM

    Last week I testified in the Water and Power Subcommittee in the House of Representatives (hearing linked here). The concern was water availability and federal funding for for research and development in desalinating (de-salting) seawater and brackish water for human consumption or use in irrigation or industry.


    I argued against the funding and pointed out that water shortages are almost always rooted in poor pricing for water. Without market pricing, scarcities and havoc will rule. I call for the separation of water and state. My long-form written testimony is linked here, and my oral comment appears below.


    I am Wayne Crews, VP for Policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute and I thank the committee for the invitation to speak on federal desalination efforts that, while they won't break the fiscal bank, distract from the infrastructure and regulatory liberalization actually needed, and embrace principles at odds with an adaptable and lightly regulated water sector.


    Desalination does boast impressive working applications, but it is an energy-intensive, by-product-laden way to make expensive potable water.


    Happily, water is not getting more scarce overall; it’s an earthly constant.


    But pricing and allocation of that constant water supply do matter. We should avoid having Government Steer While the Market Merely Rows.

  • Virginia's Uranium Mining Moratorium Should Be Buried, But What About Property Rights?

    January 16, 2013 5:11 PM

    The earth below the United States contains 5 percent of the world's known recoverable uranium deposits. More than a quarter of U.S. uranium is found in southern Virginia at Coles Hill near Chatham in Pittsylvania County. The two uranium deposits at Coles Hill are valued at $7 billion and together constitute the seventh largest deposit in the world.


    Yet all of it is still in the ground. Over 30 years ago, Virginia placed a moratorium on uranium mining in the state. This prohibition was to be lifted once the state went through the arduous process of drafting uranium mining regulations. Unfortunately, Virginia never got around to writing the rules and the "temporary" ban is still in place. The property owners at Coles Hill and some outside investors formed a company in order to mine uranium once the moratorium is lifted and the onerous regulations recommended by the Uranium Working Group [PDF] are promulgated, but still face stiff opposition from the sadly typical alliance of anti-development environmentalists and ignorant NIMBYs.

  • LOST Washing Up To Our Shores Once Again

    October 1, 2012 1:07 PM

    The United National Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) celebrated its 30th anniversary this year. Simultaneously, there has been a push for the U.S. to ratify the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST). Though signed, the treaty was never ratified by the U.S.; and for good reason. LOST redistributes wealth away from developed states, such as the U.S., and discourages innovation and investment.


    LOST replaces hundred-year-old sea boundaries for member states, regardless of being a coastal or land-locked state. This can potentially reduce the extent of sovereign territory of the U.S. For example, Niger, a predominately desert country in Sub-Saharan Africa, at least 400 miles away from the nearest ocean coast-line, is allowed the same relative amount of ocean territory as Greenland, the world’s largest island.


    LOST also creates a governing board for the ocean, the self-declared Authority. The area outside of states’ sea-boundaries, known as the Area, is to be mined by the Authority-created Enterprise. The Enterprise is a business organ which excavates for the Authority.


    At the Authority’s discretion, developed states are to pay dues, and state and private deep-seabed mining companies are to pay “royalties” towards the creation of the Enterprise.

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