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Privatization of wildlife

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A buncha tree-huggers
Save the rainforests!
Watch that carbon footprint!
Commercialization of the buffalo saved it from extinction.[note 1] We never worry about cattle becoming extinct, because their status as valuable "property" encourages their propagation. The second step libertarians would take to protect the environment and save endangered species would be to encourage private ownership of both land and animals.
—Mary J. Ruwart[1]

Privatization of wildlife is a libertarian theory in which "wildlife is privatized." Libertarians argue privatization of wildlife will save threatened species. According to the Libertarian Party, "ownership of wildlife can literally save endangered species from extinction."

Case studies as evidence[edit]

To support this argument, Libertarians point to several isolated examples. For example, the number of elephants in Kenya dropped from 65,000 to 19,000 between 1979 and 1989, while the number of elephants in Zimbabwe, where elephants were legally sold and private ownership of elephants was allowed, increased from 30,000 to 43,000.[2] Another example is CNN-founder Ted Turner's privately owned Buffalo ranch.[3] Mary J. Ruwart writes "Environmentalists were once wary of private ownership, but now recognize that establishing the property rights of native people, for example, has become an effective strategy to save the rain forests."[4]

Cato scholar Randal O’Toole (a critic of high speed rail) argued the Endangered Species Act should be reformed so that some wildlife can be privatized and that this will facilitate "recovery efforts," i.e. it will save the threatened species from extinction. He further argued that when public lands are privatized, owners will emphasize recreation and will create features having recreational value.[5] Some people think that the argument presented makes no sense, linguistically or logically.[citation NOT needed]

There also exist a great variety of species on for-profit game reserves in Texas which are extinct in their natural habitats; these species would literally face extinction without the economic incentives arising from private ownership to prevent it.[citation needed]

In Finland, Pentti Linkola of all people has founded the Finnish Nature Heritage FoundationWikipedia that acquires forests in order to protect them.

In several countries where they were formerly considered to be held in common, the privatization of the ownership of trees has, by the same token as with the Texan game preserves providing specific private incentives toward their preservation, had notable impact on deforestation.[citation needed]

Limitations in practice[edit]

Whilst these examples have done a great deal to save a few species, this approach is limited to animals that have a high commercial appeal or are saved for altruistic reasons. Species that are not valuable to humans at the time, would be allowed to go extinct even if they may have had a possible future value. Libertarians cite tourism as a possible means of saving large tracts of wildlife reserves and hence any animals inside it, but often the land would have a higher value being put to another use. For example, Iguazu FallsWikipedia would be far more profitable to the "owner" as a hydroelectric dam, such as the extinct Guaíra FallsWikipedia were turned into.[note 2] However, tourism is more beneficial to the towns and surrounding community. So someone with an altruistic streak must "buy" the waterfalls and run it for a far smaller profit than they could otherwise obtain. The only organisations "stupid" enough to do that are governments and non-profit organisations, and the latter very rarely have the budget to compete with private businesses.

Several US states have found that it is more economical to allow private companies to run state parks.[6] This fact in itself is not really an argument in favor of privatization of wildlife, since outsourcing the management of state parks does not mean that the land itself is privately owned in an allodial title sense. True privatization of state parks would eliminate any restrictions on the use of that land, which would open it up to exploitation and/or development.

Credit where credit is due[edit]

The Nature Conservancy is a charity dedicated to purchasing private land to preserve natural sections, both for wildlife enthusiasts and hunters. To that end, it does effectively maintain about 120 million acres of relatively natural land around the world. So it's not out of the realm of possibility that some natural spaces would be preserved. What's far less likely is the preservation of permanently losable value of many unique species would persist through every challenging market cycle, with all the foresight proponents of privatization claim.


  1. "The only continuously wild bison herd in the United States resides within Yellowstone National Park. Numbering between 3,000 and 3,500, this herd is descended from a remnant population of 23 individual mountain bison that survived the mass slaughter of the 1800s by hiding out in the Pelican Valley of Yellowstone Park." Yellowstone is a National Park. Quote from the wikipedia article on the American bison.Wikipedia
  2. Although this was done by the Brazilian and Uruguay military, which shows how much help the bastards in government can be.