Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Free Markets And Trout Streams

Once again, Thee Ass Hooked Whitey beat me to it.

In his post Who is the Property Environmental and Research Center and why do they hate us?, he brings up a New York Times article (subscription may be required) that brings some of the free market, property rights type arguments into the fray.

Since TWK is an economist by training, he can't disagree with many of these arguments (union rules, you know). The success of using property rights as one tool to prevent poaching of wildlife in Africa is a good example.

However, the SRC case is a different animal from, say, a bunch of folks chipping in to fix up a spring creek. The rights to navigable streams are publicly owned by the states. Allowing SRC to take over such a stream for nothing doesn't even do what the property folks argue. It is analogous to giving away grazing or mineral rights on public land. You get the same over-consumption of an underpriced commodity, except the consumers are different. It is just a transfer of wealth from the state and people to the SRC.

Now if the state of PA decided that the best way to manage its streams held in trust would be to lease the rights to certain sections of streams to fishing clubs like the SRC and priced it appropriately, I don't have a problem with that. The funds raised from these leases could be used for habitat restoration on other sections of stream that might badly need the funding or increased enforcement of game laws, etc.

This is not what happened with the Spring Ridge Club. They didn't pay to use the water that is supposed to be held in trust by the state for all its folks. They put up no trespassing signs and strung piano wire across the stream. Doesn't sound like an innovative, free market solution to me.

No comments: