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The rise of property rights activism is one of the untold stories of the 1990s. During that decade, the property rights movement came of age, growing from a dispersed, loosely organized collection of grass roots groups and concerned individuals into an important political force.

The articles in the Property Rights Reader summarize the conflicts over government regulation of property in the name of species conservation and wetland protection; analyze the political context of the property rights debate; discuss the treatment of property rights in the courts; and examine the role of private property in encouraging conservation and sound environmental stewardship. A closing essay addresses the extent to which property rights are supported by the American public. In addition, the CEI environmental staff has compiled a short list of additional readings for those who wish to pursue this issue.

Since its inception, CEI has focused on property rights as one of the most important policy issues. The protection of property rights is central to the promotion of free enterprise and limited government. Without the protection of property rights there can be no economic liberty — indeed no true liberty at all. Property rights are the foundation upon which the institutions of a free society are built. It is our hope that the selections in this reader will communicate that message.