Economic Incentives to Conserve Wildlife on Private Lands: Analysis and Policy
Some believe that provision of private property rights in wildlife on private land provides a powerful economic incentive for nature conservation because it enables property owners to market such wildlife or its attributes. If such marketing is profitable, private landholders will conserve the wildlife concerned and its required habitat. But land is not always most profitably used for exploitation of wildlife, and many economic values of wildlife (such as non-use economic values) cannot be marketed. The mobility of some wildlife adds to the limitations of the private-property approach. While some species may be conserved by this approach, it is suboptimal as a single policy approach to nature conservation. Nevertheless, it is being experimented with, in the Northern Territory of Australia where landholders had a possibility of harvesting on their properties a quota of eggs and chicks of red-tailed black cockatoos for commercial sale. This scheme was expected to provide an incentive to private landholders to retain hollow trees essential for the nesting of these birds but failed. This case and others are analysed. Despite private-property failures, the long-term survival of some wildlife species depends on their ability to use private lands without severe harassment, either for their migration or to supplement their available resources, for example, the Asian elephant. Nature conservation on private land is often a useful, if not essential, supplement to conservation on public lands. Community and public incentives for such conservation are outlined.