The Role of Property Rights in Economic Research on U.S. Wetlands Policy
The purpose of this essay is to define the role of resource economics in the development of U.S. wetlands policy. I argue that the “optimal pollution model” based on maximation of net benefits of wetland protection is, for the most part, not directly applicable to the creation of wetlands policy for two reasons: (1) the delineation of property rights among wetland owners and the general public, as opposed to the maximization of net benefits, is the more fundamental political issue and therefore drives policy-making; (2) the predominant public benefits of wetlands fall into the economic category of “nonuse values” which are very difficult to define and measure in a policy-relevant way, and the public's legal rights to them have not been established. These conclusions indicate that resource economics research that focuses upon (1) the economic significance to interested parties of alternative delineations of property rights, (2) development of policy tools appropriate for each possible property rights delineation, and (3) the relative cost-effectiveness of these policy tools is most useful for policy-making.
Lant, C.L., 1994. The Role of Property Rights in Economic Research on U.S. Wetlands Policy. Ecological Economics 11 (1994): 27-33.