News Release

Study: Conservation and Commerce Aren’t Mutually Exclusive

Think tank highlights successful private conservation efforts, calls for performance measures

Los Angeles (January 27, 2005) – A new Reason Foundation study highlights successful private conservation efforts and calls upon private landowners to agree upon a set of well-defined performance measures that will further protect endangered species and habitat while reducing the need for command and control regulations.

“For every spotted owl controversy there are thousands of cases where conservation and commerce happily get along: from ranchers protecting stream beds to the Louisiana Audubon Society operating oil and gas drills in one of their bird sanctuaries,” said Michael De Alessi, director of natural resources at Reason Foundation and author of the study. “In fact, it is because these lands are privately owned that the controversy is minimized. On public lands, land-use decisions inevitably wind up in the court of politics, where rhetoric and extremism trump substance and tradeoffs. By instituting performance measures we can start to move away from conflict and confrontation and toward cooperative and collaborative approaches to solving environmental challenges.”

The report features several conservation victories like the Peregrine Fund’s collaboration with landowners to reintroduce the Northern Aplomado Falcon into the wild. A private, non-profit group, the Peregrine Fund’s efforts have produced at least 39 pairs of falcons where they hadn’t existed for 50 years. “The Peregrine Fund works closely with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, but since it depends on fundraising to support its efforts it is far more results-oriented than the government agency,” De Alessi said. By comparison, in the last 30 years almost 1,300 species have been added to the list of threatened and endangered species, but only 10 have been “recovered” – and many of those recoveries are not credited to the Endangered Species Act or government action.

The study also presents private conservation success stories in protecting our coasts, oceans and water quality; maintaining sustainable fisheries; protecting habitats while exploring for oil and gas; and private land management techniques that are conserving forests.

To continue the positive steps private conservation is making, the Reason study recommends implementing policies based on the conservation principles originally laid out by the National Governor’s Association, including:

  • Reward Results, Not Programs – “Solving problems, not just complying with regulations, should be the goal,” stated De Alessi.
  • Markets Before Mandates – “Using economic incentives usually results in more efficient, cost-effective results and more rapid compliance,” De Alessi said.
  • Recognize Costs and Benefits – “To find win-win situations, we need to weigh all of the social, legal, economic, and political costs and benefits to ensure that no single factor dominates,” said De Alessi.

Full Report Online

The full study, Conservation Through Private Initiative, is available online at

About Reason

Reason is a leading libertarian think tank that has been advancing free minds and free markets since 1968. Reason’s policy analysts, considered among the nation’s premier privatization experts, have advised the last four presidential administrations, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and numerous other state and local governments.


Michael De Alessi, Director of Natural Resource Policy, (415) 305-3474
Chris Mitchell, Media Relations, Reason Foundation, (800) 582-2245 ext. 3037