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Free to Prosper: Private and Public Lands

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Free to Prosper: Private and Public Lands

A Pro-Growth Agenda for the 116th Congress

View the full chapter on private and public lands here

Private property and secure property rights are essential conditions of freedom and prosperity. Contrary to propaganda from environmental advocacy groups, environmental stewardship by private landowners has proven to be far superior to that of public land managers. Private land ownership provides the right incentives to protect the value of land, including its environmental resources. However, federal regulations—primarily the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and Clean Water Act wetlands regulation—increasingly undermine private conservation by threatening property rights. This chapter makes several recommendations to reduce heavy-handed federal land-use regulation of private property and thereby increase freedom, promote prosperity, and better protect the environment.

Federal land ownership does massive environmental damage in the Western states, Alaska, and other states where the federal government owns or controls large areas of land. Mismanagement of the vast federal estate is the work of many decades, but the negative environmental and economic consequences have become obvious only in the past few years to people who do not live in rural areas with lots of federal land, as catastrophic fires over millions of acres have darkened the sky and fouled the air across the West. Those fires are the inevitable result of colossal fuel buildup, which is the direct result of severely reducing timber production in the National Forests. This chapter makes recommendations for improving federal land management, increasing resource production on federal lands, and radically reducing the amount of land the federal government controls. 

Finally, planning for the speculative effects of potential climate change began to permeate federal land management policy and planning during the Obama administration. That is bad enough, but planning for climate change has given federal land managers an excuse for planning “beyond boundaries”—that is, to include private property in their plans. In addition, calculating the speculative future social cost of carbon, an arbitrary figure based on the policy preferences of federal bureaucrats, was starting to be used in federal environmental permitting decisions. Although the Trump administration is doing what it can administratively to eliminate climate planning and climate programs, including use of the SCC, legislation is needed in many areas. For example, Congress should prohibit the use of the SCC in federal land management and environmental permitting and abolish certain climate programs that were created by secretarial order in the previous administration.


In this chapter:

  • Reform and Reduce Environmental Regulation of Private Lands
  • Shrink the Federal Estate
  • Unlock Federal Lands
  • Restore Resource Production on Federal Lands
  • Remove Climate Planning from Federal Lands Policy

Read the full chapter on private and public lands here