The Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw®
Life Extension NewsTM
Volume 13 No. 4 • August 2010

Sell Off Some of the Nature Preserves and Protected
Areas to Invest In More Cost-Effective Conservation

A remarkable suggestion was made by Australian scientists writing in a recent Nature.1 They noted the lack of funds for expanding protected areas for conservation purposes in Australia and proposed (we can still hardly believe it) that the Australian government sell off some of the poorly performing protected areas (which are not providing cost-effective outcomes for public spending) and reinvest the money obtained from the sales into protecting different areas that would provide better conservation outcomes. The researchers estimate that “by selling off 70 of Australia’s nearly 7,000 protected areas, the government could raise Aus$20.6 billion (US$17.4 billion) ...”

The areas protected for conservation in Australia are said to comprise about 8% of Australia’s landmass. (Compare this to the U.S., where about one third of the land area of the United States has been nationalized and is controlled by various agencies of the Federal government (e.g., U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management) and most uses are strictly regulated, mostly in the name of conservation.) As is noted in the accompanying commentary,2 “growth in global spending on protected areas has stagnated in recent decades. ...” Hence, the suggestion has been made that money be raised by selling poorly performing conservation areas to protect “the best places.” As is noted in the commentary,2 however, “the idea of applying a return on investment approach to the design of networks of protected areas has yet to gain traction in the messy world of non-governmental organizations involved in conservation, or that of national governments.” “The idea that a protected area might not be secured in perpetuity will be unsettling, as such a precedent may make it too easy for governments to revoke systems of protected areas in times of economic stress. Also, those 70 protected areas in Australia—the bottom 1%—tend to be in locations where land prices are high, which means that they are near urban centres.” “... their public accessibility and visibility could be essential in maintaining public support for conservation.” As the commentary surprisingly notes, however, that protected areas established as rigid “do not touch” ever again resources with little or no regard to cost-benefit may strike the general public as “monuments to one special-interest group—conservationists.”

Wow! This is a wonderful idea! Nice to see it in Nature. It is about time that the Federal government of the USA started selling off much of the huge land estate they now mismanage to pay for their unfunded promises (e.g., Social Security, Medicare, Obamacare, etc., etc.). Most of this land (such as that controlled by the Bureau of Land Management) is nothing special, of no great conservation value, like Australia’s lowest 1%. How can the Feds justify hoarding in perpetuity this hugely valuable estate that, at least in the West (such as in Nevada, where over 90% of the state is controlled by the Feds), often restricts people to small and diminishing areas of private property—while limiting public access to and usage of the so-called public lands—and while they are squeezing the public with higher and higher taxes to pay for more and more spending? Sell it off and pay your bills!!!!


  1. Fuller et al. Replacing underperforming protected areas achieves better conservation outcomes. Nature 466:365-367 (2010).
  2. Kareiva. Trade-in to trade-up. Nature 466:322-3 (2010).

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