ALEC Environmental Management and Protection Principles
Mission: To promote a healthy environmental legacy, preserving wildlife habitat, providing natural beauty and creating opportunities for hiking, hunting, fishing and enjoying natural resources.
Across the country, America’s natural beauty and environmental resources are a source of pride and wonder. Technological innovation and free market incentives have allowed us to promote economic prosperity while improving environmental health, protecting wild lands, and conserving resources.
Contrary to the current environmental policy that begins and ends with government regulation, environmental policies that harness cooperative and market-based solutions not only protect personal freedom and prosperity, but also protect environmental health, quality, and values.
ALEC believes environmental protection is most effective when it harnesses property rights and markets before resorting to costly and ineffective regulations.
Defining Property Rights to Foster Cooperative Environmental Solutions
When environmental resources are owned by everyone, they are effectively owned by no one, a situation that often leads to overuse and undermines incentives to conserve.
When property rights are clearly defined, readily enforceable and transferable, economic incentives generally align with environmental conservation and overuse is less likely. Nobel Prize winners Ronald Coase and Elinor Ostrom explained how property rights foster cooperative solutions that are durable, equitable, and economically efficient. Property rights reward investments in sustainable management and provide opportunities to negotiate among those with an interest in natural resources.
Example: When command-and-control regulations failed to recover collapsing marine fish stocks, catch shares that mimic private property rights effectively ended the race-to-fish and recovered several key fisheries in United States and around the world.
Harnessing Markets for Conservation
Free markets are the most effective way to make efficient use of natural resources and reduce waste. Market prices reflect the scarcity of a resource and, more importantly, they prompt innovators to create ways to use less of the resource or find substitutes. Market innovation also reduces poverty, which is the greatest threat to wildlife habitat and pollution.
Where transaction costs hinder the creation, enforcement or transfer of property rights, cooperative solutions cannot emerge. In such cases, the imposition of simple, clear charges can instead be applied to pollution, thereby encouraging users to reduce their impact. Such prices are not designed to force politically chosen behavior change, but give businesses and individuals incentives and wide latitude to reduce impact on the environment and others.
Example: Water markets, permitting different water users to trade, allow water to flow to its highest valued use – agriculture, fish habitat or residential use – leading to more effective conservation than water use restrictions.
Example: Regarding the management of national parks, Milton Friedman argued that rather than charging everyone, users and nonusers alike, fees could be charged to park users for maintenance of the park and protection of the lands. This fee program has proven remarkably effective at improving visitor satisfaction and infrastructure at national parks.
Regulations as Last Resort
When other solutions are not possible, due to the impracticality of defining rights or harnessing markets, simple and straightforward regulation can be an effective last resort. Regulation should always be simple and transparent, focusing on the particular issue and should not become an opportunity to provide favoritism to particular special interests.
Example: Regulation to remove lead from gasoline was a simple and effective way to reduce the impact of lead in the air.
Approved by the ALEC Board of Directors January 9, 2015.