Land Clearing Once Again.

Subject: Land Clearing Once Again.
From: Harry Clarke <>
Date: Tue, 21 Jul 1998 14:51:40 +1000
Paul Osborn is right about the 'land clearing' issue. Take care and think
things through carefully -- reacting without thought can be dangerous to
conservation. If governments do threaten lease non-renewal, farmers may not
have incentives to take care of land approaching its lease expiry date.
Environmental destruction in Queensland has occurred because of uncertainty
over land tenure and could be an implication of Mabo-related ownership
uncertainties. A better proposal is to make lease renewal contingent on the
use of good conservation management. Likewise threats to deny
agriculturalists access to land because of the presence of certain animal
species can create a very difficult environment for the species -- farmers
may have incentives to shoot them or at least to deny their existence. 

The key to prevent land clearing and the destruction of nature on private
land is to reward landholders for conservationist efforts.  Think about
Gluepot Station in South Australia -- bought for a relative pittance, the
land had low agricultural productivity but high conservation values.  The
land was used for agricultural purposes because the benefits of agriculture
can be privately-appropriated (rewards end up in someone's pockets) while
the far more valuable conservation benefits accrue to no individual in
particular.  In short, a property rights failure occurs calling for
government interventions or for groups to get together and like Birds
Australia or Earth Sanctuaries to buy out the properties. 

Governments should pay rewards to landowners who protect vulnerable native
species. They should (and do!) make lease renewals contingent on good
environmental management. On private land where the value of argicultural
or other outputs are less than conservation values governments should
buy-back land from the private sector.  Would it really be so expensive to
buy back slabs of Capertree Valley in NSW or the Baileston/Nagambie areas
of Victoria to pick a couple of obvious examples? 

Harry Clarke. 
Harry Clarke

School of Business
Faculty of Law and Management
Room 433, Donald Whitehead Building
La Trobe University, Bundoora, 3083. Australia.

Phone: 03-9479-1732
Fax: 03-9479-1654

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