Do environmentalists understand incentives?


Author: Brandon Middleton

Power Line's Steven Hayward, commenting on an article in the United States section of this week's The Economist:

The United States section this week offers an article on the controversy over whether the ivory-billed woodpecker still exists. Long thought extinct, some reported sightings a few years back have been all the rage in the ornithology community. In reporting the story, The Economist notes an important fact that is wholly lost on environmentalists and U.S. news media alike:

The rush to protect a possibly non-existent bird’s habitat may seem odd: but, if discovered, the creature would be protected by the Endangered Species Act. One perverse consequence of this act, well documented in the case of the red-cockaded woodpecker, is that landowners rush to destroy suitable habitat before their land gets hit with a protection order. News last month that the government is planning to review the status of hundreds of possibly-endangered species has left conservationists worried. Some fear the new protections might push species such as the Texas kangaroo rat or the golden-winged warbler down the same road to extinction as the ivory-billed woodpecker.

But just propose amending the Endangered Species Act to reduce the perverse incentives to "shoot, shovel, and shut up," and watch the reactionary environmental establishment erupt with fury.