Environmental-Production Tradeoffs

Did you see John’s thoughtful opinion piece in Friday’s Albuquerque Journal (subscription)? “The Valle Vidal is a beautiful section of the Carson National Forest. Substantial natural gas production is being obtained from the adjacent and possibly more beautiful Vermejo Park Ranch. It is believed similar production could be obtained from Valle Vidal.”
Why is it that production, such as drilling for oil or gas, seems easily to coexist with “environmental” uses of land in some cases but not in others? The answer lies in who owns the land. When it is owned privately, its owner has incentive to evaluate production-environmental trade offs. The owner does not want to take excessive risk that the land might be spoiled. The owner simply wants to make best use of the land for its value in the enjoyment of natural beauty, its value in energy production and the threat to its value from environmental harm.
When land is owned by the government, however, these tradeoffs are politicized. Environmental interest groups such as the Sierra Club seem totally unwilling to consider alternative uses or magnitude of risk from environmental harm. These same groups permit production on land when they actually own it.
If you are interested in how ownership incentives improve the natural beauty and enjoyment of land while permitting alternative uses and improving the environment look here or here. Look here for an innovative public land management idea being tried in the Land of Enchantment!