by John A. Baden
Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment
April 15, 2014
My goal today is to interest people who value parks and wild lands to consider changes in the institutions governing their management. One attractive option is to transfer ownership to fiduciary trusts. These institutions can build upon over 400 years of experience to help conserve parks and wild lands. The intellectual arguments for this change come primarily from public choice and Austrian economics. (The duties of a fiduciary include loyalty and reasonable care of the assets within custody. All of the fiduciary’s actions are performed for the advantage of the beneficiary.) Although several decades ago when my colleagues and I introduced this idea, conventional environmentalists feared and hated it, the breakdown of government efficiency, falling budgets, and lost public trust make alternatives to federal ownership and political management more promising. None is perfect but the logic of political economy helps us anticipate pathologies and guide reforms.