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New book by PERC researchers: Tapping Water Markets

Now available from RFF Press, Tapping Water Markets explores the past, present, and future of water marketing. Written by PERC Executive Director Terry Anderson and research fellows Brandon Scarborough and Reed Watson, the book provides up-to-date information of where and why water shortages are occurring and where and why markets are emerging to resolve water conflicts.

Unlike other books that portray water wars as an inescapable reality of a crowded planet, Tapping Water Markets proposes institutional reforms aimed at fostering voluntary water exchange, conservation, and cooperation. The book contains case studies from the United States and other parts of the world demonstrating the importance of clearly defined, secure and transferable water rights.

Intended for professional and lay audiences, the book covers a range of topics including surface water allocation, groundwater management, environmental flows, and water quality trading. It concludes with predictions about the future of water scarcity and the ability of water markets to shape that future more positively.

Copies are available direct from the publisher and at Amazon.com.

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Apply to the 2012 Enviropreneur Institute

The application window for the 2012 Enviropreneur Institute is now open. This annual, two-week program for environmental professionals will be held in Bozeman, Montana, from June 24 – July 6.

The mission of the Enviropreneur Institute is to empower environmental entrepreneurs in the application of property rights, contracts, and markets to enhance environmental assets. The curriculum features lectures by experts in economics, business planning, marketing, and project management, as well as discussion sessions, field trips, and mentoring sessions with PEI faculty. The program concludes with business plan presentations by each of the fellows.

Check out this video on the Institute:


Fellows receive a $2,000 stipend out of which they pay for their own travel. Lodging and most meals will be provided during the program.

Additional information and the online application are available at www.enviropreneurs.org. The application deadline is March 5, 2012 with final decisions made by April 9. Contact PERC if you have any questions.

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Property Rights Saving Wildlife in Namibia

For an interesting example of how property rights can turn environmental liabilities into profitable assets, check out To Save Wildlife, Namibia’s Farmers Take Control by Christopher Joyce.

The NPR article documents how local ownership of wildlife resources has created an incentive for stewardship in the Namibian bush. In 1996 the Namibian government granted the right to manage and profit from wildlife to communal conservancies. Since then, the populations of rhino, cheetah, lion, and elephant have all rapidly increased, while the incidence of poaching has been nearly wiped out.

Driving this conservation success are revenues from tourism and hunting. As Joyce explains, the latter offends some wildlife protectionists (just read the comments below the article), but the results are hard to refute. Whereas wildlife populations are declining throughout most of Africa, they are flourishing in Namibia because “their fate (lies) in the hands of the people who share their lands.”

For more analysis on how property rights can save wildlife, check out these PERC publications by  Robert Nelson and James Shikwati.

*Thanks to Jamie Workman (PEI 2005) for spotting the article on NPR.

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Return on Investment

PERC recently acquired ownership of some valuable real estate in the Florida Keys. To the staff’s disappointment, it was not winter office space. Instead, we adopted a piece of Staghorn coral transplanted by the Coral Restoration Foundation. The property is a gift from the 2011 Enviropreneur Institute Fellows.

Restoring Florida’s coral reefs is the mission of the Coral Restoration Foundation. By planting nursery-grown brood stock in restoration sites, this organization is helping reverse the impacts of hurricanes, boat landings, and nutrient loading.

Brett Howell, 2011 PEI alum, is spearheading an effort to create a market-based approach to coral reef restoration. If you’d like to adopt some transplanted coral, visit this site.

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Clemson Fellowship Created in Honor of PERC’s Bobby McCormick

The John E. Walker Department of Economics recently created a new graduate fellowship in honor of PERC Senior Fellow and Professor Emeritus Bobby McCormick.

A Clemson University alumnus funded the fellowship in recognition of McCormick’s inspiration and mentoring of numerous students throughout his career.

The anonymous donor was quoted as saying, “The Economics Department has many great professors, but Bobby McCormick is one of a kind. He was always willing to engage in intellectual discourse with anyone willing to think, anywhere and anytime. He cared enough about economics and his students to sharply criticize our work, helping us forge it into something immeasurably better. And I’d be shocked if there is another professor in America who has cooked more meals for more students over more years in his home. He cares more about people, more about ideas, and more about Clemson than anyone else I know. It’s a great privilege to initiate this fellowship in his honor.”

PERC congratulates Bobby on this recognition.

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Master Teacher Dan Benjamin Retires from Clemson

Professor Dan Benjamin is retiring from Clemson University. As a long-time advocate of free markets, Dan likely underestimates the significance of this loss to the school and, in particular, the John E. Walker Department of Economics. He likely expects the department to find a substitute in the marketplace, perhaps one with lower opportunity costs and consequently a lower wage rate.

But Dan would be wrong; there is no substitute available at his or any other price. No other instructor will captivate a 300 person introductory micro class like Dan. No other writer can distill the principles of economics as clearly or as engagingly as Dan. And no other mentor can motivate aspiring economists (either to excel in economics or find other aspirations) as did Dan.

Professor Dan Benjamin, that “scoundrel whose faulty vision sees things as they really are, not as they ought to be,” had a funny habit of seeing students and colleagues as they were, then making them better. When he was awarded the Alumni Master Teachers Award in 2008 student nominators wrote:

[H]e challenged, enlightened, and educated them in an enjoyable class setting. One student described him as “extremely passionate” and another wrote, “Dr. Benjamin has unknowingly influenced my change of major to economics and has been my favorite professor here at Clemson.”

Luckily for us at PERC, Dan will have more time to spend in Montana now. In 1994, he joined PERC as a senior fellow and is now the director of the PERC Fellowship Program for graduate and law students. Dan is the author of numerous scholarly articles and books, and served as the associate editor of the journal Economic Inquiry. Dan has also served as a staff economist with the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, as deputy assistant secretary of labor, and as chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Labor. But it is Dan’s work on recycling that has made him known as “the trash man” around PERC. You can read his popular Tangents column for PERC Reports here, his PERC Policy Series on recycling, or watch him discussing recycling on Penn and Teller.

We congratulate Dan on his retirement and look forward to seeing him at PERC this summer.

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Climate change is back in court

Today the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in American Electric Power v. Connecticut, about which Jonathan Adler wrote in the latest edition of PERC Reports.

At issue is whether greenhouse gas emissions constitute a “public nuisance” and require judicially devised emission controls.  Adler offers more thoughts on today’s hearings here.

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PEI Success Story: Chris Corbin Turns Blue Into Green

by Reed Watson


Anyone thinking of applying to PERC’s Enviropreneur Institute should watch this video of Chris Corbin, a 2008 PEI alum. In the video, Chris explains how property rights and markets allow environmentalists to keep water in stream and entrepreneurs to turn a profit while improving environmental quality.

As Chris says, his company, Lotic, LLC, helps farmers and ranchers “turn blue into green.”  For more on Chris, read his article in the new edition of PERC Reports.

Applications for the 2011 Enviropreneur Institute are due March 6th. Apply here.

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Water Isn’t Always for Fightin’

by Reed Watson

Mark Twain supposedly quipped that “Whisky is for drinkin’ and water is for fightin’.” Given the recent water wars in the U.S., Twain’s statement appears to be timeless. But a new essay from PERC’s Terry Anderson and Gary Libecap suggests that water use does not always have to result in fightin’ if water markets are allowed to work.

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Is FME Taking Root?

by Reed Watson

This report by the World Resources Institute begins as most environmental reports do: with alarming news of man-made environmental destruction and a dire prognosis for maintaining the status quo.

The focus of this particular report is deforestation in the South and the critical importance of protecting “Intact Forest Landscapes” from suburban development.

Nothing new here. Suburban development has long been the bane of wilderness preservationists.

What is newsworthy is the author Logan Yonavjak’s interview on NPR. In it, she discusses how paying private forest owners not to sell to developers is a cost-effective way to ensure the continued provision of wildlife habitat and  clean water. She even explains that the consumers of the environmental goods should be the ones who pay!

Advocates of Free Market Environmentalism (FME) should be pleased. There’s no call for expansive regulation, zoning, or federal subsidies to solve this environmental “problem.” Instead, concepts like  “economic incentives” and “entrepreneurial approaches to pay private landowners” dominate the interview.

Perhaps soon they’ll dominate the environmental conversation.

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Could More Public Land Actually Mean Less Conservation?

by Reed Watson

That’s the central question Holly Fretwell and Shawn Regan pose at Forbes.com, and it’s an important one. Congress is currently proposing to permanently extend the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which would set aside nearly a billion dollars each year to acquire more public land. But, as Holly and Shawn suggest, there is reason to believe it won’t amount to much conservation:

Federal land management has largely resulted in poor stewardship of America’s most treasured natural areas. Maintenance, in particular, has been dismal. The Forest Service estimates a backlog of $5 billion in deferred maintenance projects and the National Park Service has a backlog of more than $10 billion. The outcome is overflowing sewer systems, failing roads and ruined cultural resources.

But that hasn’t stopped these agencies from acquiring even more land. Since 1960 the government has taken over more than 50 million acres–an area the size of Utah.

To an increasingly conservation-minded public, putting more land in government ownership might seem sensible. But, in reality, more federal land does not necessarily mean more conservation. The LWCF only provides funds for land acquisition, not for the care and maintenance of existing lands. And given the current management needs of the 650 million acres already owned by the government, spending millions acquiring new land is irresponsible.

You can read the whole piece online here.

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Hunting for Private Property Rights

by Reed Watson

The November 2 election is shaping up to be an important gauge of our country’s political direction. And though most of the November 3 headlines will focus on the head count of Democrats and Republicans in Congress, the results of a ballot measure in North Dakota might prove a better litmus test of where our country is headed.

Ballot Measure 2 [PDF] seeks to outlaw the hunting of privately owned game animals on enclosed private property throughout North Dakota. This non-partisan issue has made strange bedfellows of hunting purists and animal rights activists; and it implicates a core principle of our country’s founding, namely, that private property rights are not subject to popularity contests.

Proponents of the measure claim the practice of raising, enclosing, then shooting trophy elk and deer offends the American notion of fair chase hunting. And they’re right. As a recent Wall Street Journal article notes, the practice is offensive to many hunters who prefer to hunt free-ranging wildlife that have every opportunity to escape.

However, as the opposition to the ballot measure explains, the constitutional rights of private landowners trump the preferences of the voting public. Indeed, this priority of rights is what distinguishes our constitutional democracy from a socialist state.

As the election results come in, pay attention to the outcome of North Dakota’s Ballot Measure 2. It will signal whether property rights remain more important than preferences.