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OpenMarket: Lands and Wildlife

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

    April 23, 2014
    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...
  • Supreme Court Overwhelmingly Votes to Uphold Rights of Private Property Owners

    March 12, 2014
    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...
  • Good News to Share Over the Holidays: The World Is Getting Better

    December 2, 2013
    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...
  • Are California Droughts Natural or Man Made?

    October 11, 2013
    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...
  • Some Genuine Vindictiveness in Park Closings

    October 4, 2013
    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...
  • How to Have Enough Water for Everybody

    May 28, 2013
    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...
  • Virginia's Uranium Mining Moratorium Should Be Buried, But What About Property Rights?

    January 16, 2013
    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...
  • LOST Washing Up To Our Shores Once Again

    October 1, 2012
    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...
  • If Demography Is Destiny, We're Screwed (So To Speak)

    August 23, 2012
    "Things will get better." Such sentiments frequently fall from the lips of ever-loving economic optimists who -- while noting the current distressed condition of things -- nonetheless insist that recessions have come before, and have always been followed (eventually) by recoveries. I know a few of these optimists, and they’re quite right -- to a point. Because what these sunny souls forget is that every recovery depends upon a plentiful supply of Earth’s most precious resource -- human beings. And it is a resource that is becoming increasingly scarce, especially in the industrialized democracies. Until recently, the United States was famous for bucking the plummeting birth-rate trend that has haunted other advanced countries for years. But apparently Americans are now caving to the peer pressure (“Come on, Yanks! Everyone’s -- not -- doing it!”). According to a recent report in...
  • Decoding The Malthusian Fallacy

    August 6, 2012
    The writings of Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834) inspired Victorian historian Thomas Carlyle to condemn economics as "the dismal science." Witnessing the deplorable crowding, poverty, and disease of England's dirty cities and struck by a grim historical record of famines and epidemics, Malthus embodied academic pessimism. The work that made his reputation and popularized his name was An Essay on the Principle of Population. Malthus felt he was a Cassandra, admonishing utopians to beware of a catastrophic inevitability they could not see: The human population would inevitably exceed the carrying capacity of its environment.
    This natural inequality of the two powers, of population, and of production of the earth,...

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