Property and Environment Research Center (PERC)

The Property and Environment Research Center Is A Think Tank That Opposes Public Land Protections Through “Market Approaches”

The Property And Environment Research Center Is A Nonprofit Think Tank That Advocates For “Market Approaches” To Public Lands Management

The Property And Environment Research Center (PERC)’s Website Says It Is A Research Institute Dedicated To Promoting Conservation Via Voluntary Trade. “PERC is a research institute dedicated to promoting conservation by exploring how voluntary trade can produce positive environmental outcomes. We are committed to exploring the ideas of free-market environmentalism, and this research is the foundation of PERC. Our current initiatives focus on market approaches to wildlife conservation and improving public lands management. This work then informs conservation policy and practice.” [PERC, accessed 10/07/19]

PERC Performs Outreach By Testifying Before Congress, Hosting Policymakers At Informational Events And With Videos, Podcasts And Earned The Media. “We strive to share the ideas of free market environmentalism through a variety of outreach efforts. PERC researchers impact environmental policy by testifying before Congress, providing public comments on proposed policies, and hosting informational events for policymakers. We regularly work with conservation groups to implement market approaches to conservation on the ground. We also share our research through media, in both PERC-created videos and podcasts and earned placements with major media outlets.” [PERC, accessed 10/07/19]

PERC Benefits From Oil Industry Funding And Has Close Ties To The Koch Brothers

PERC Has Close Ties To The Koch Brothers, Who Lead An Oil And Gas Conglomerate And Bankroll Much Of The Right-Wing Movement 

PERC Is Partially Funded By The Koch Brothers. PERC Received $258,144 from the Koch Brothers. “The Koch brothers, leaders of a vast family oil-and-gas conglomerate, use this political network to pursue their right-wing agenda at nearly every level of government. Whether they are contributing millions in campaign contributions, spending millions on lobbying, or investing millions in right-wing think tank and advocacy groups, the Koch brothers’ influence is pervasive. Charles and David Koch would prefer to keep their influence behind the scenes but recent reporting by the Center for American Progress Action Fund’s ThinkProgress and a variety of media and advocacy organizations shed light on the enormous breadth and reach of their network. This report will showcase the players involved in the Koch network, where they operate, and the vast amounts of money involved. The report also exposes the Koch right-wing ideological agenda that often protects their business interests at the expense of everyone else.” [Center For American Progress, April 2011]

PERC’s Former Executive Director Is A Koch Brothers Insider. “Reed Watson is a Professor of Practice in the John E. Walker Department of Economics at Clemson University and a former executive director of PERC. His research focuses on the implementation of market-based solutions to natural resource conflicts focusing particularly on public lands, water, and wildlife issues.” [PERC, accessed 11/22/19]

  • On His Resume, Watson Says He Previously Worked For The Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. [Reed Watson Resume, accessed 11/22/19]

PERC And The Heritage Foundation Co-Hosted A Panel Called: “Challenges and Solutions to Improve Federal Lands Management.” On November 14th, 2018, Heritage and PERC co-hosted a panel discussing federal land management. Panelists represented both PERC and Heritage employees such as Yablonski as well as Dan Smith (then-National Park Service Deputy Director), Casey Hammond (DeputyAssistant for Land & Mineral Management), Chris French (Acting Deputy Chief, U.S. Forest Service) and Marshall Critchfield (Advisor, Fish and Wildlife Service). [Heritage Foundation, 11/14/18]

  • Heritage Is A Conservative Foundation Funded By The Koch Brothers. “So their revolution has been an evolution, with roots going back half a century to Koch’s first contributions to libertarian causes and Republican candidates. In the mid-1970s their business of changing minds got more formal when Charles co-founded what became the Cato Institute, the first major libertarian think tank. Based in Washington, it has 120 employees devoted to promoting property rights, educational choice and economic freedom. In 1978 the brothers helped found–and still fund–George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, the go-to academy for deregulation; they have funded the Federalist Society, which shapes conservative judicial thinking; the pro-market Heritage Foundation; a California-based center skeptical of human-driven climate change; and many other institutions.” [Forbes, 12/05/12]

PERC Has Received At Least $115,000 From The Oil Giant ExxonMobil 

Between 1998 And 2007, PERC Received A Total Of $155,000 From ExxonMobil. [Union of Concerned Scientists, accessed 11/21/19]

PERC Supports Privatizing Federal Public Land

PERC Advocates “Selling Off Millions Of Acres” Of Public Land In What It Calls “A Real Land Management Rebellion”

PERC Has Called For “A Real Land Management Rebellion” And “Selling Off Millions Of Acres” Of Public Land. In an op-ed, PERC President Terry Anderson wrote, “at a time when federal deficits are running at their highest levels ever and when guns are literally drawn over public land management, perhaps we need a real land management rebellion. It’s time to consider privatization rather than more politicization of federal lands. We could start by selling off millions of acres of grazing lands. Private ranchers have proven they are good stewards of the land they own, both in terms of livestock production and ecosystem services. If environmental groups want to have authority in land management, they should also accept responsibility by buying lands, as groups such as the Grand Canyon Trust and the American Prairie Reserve already do. Perhaps a little experimentation of this sort would provide further evidence that fiscal responsibility and environmental responsibility go hand-in-hand.” [Missoulian05/12/14]

PERC Praised Utah’s 2012 Law That Demanded That The Federal Government Cede Title To Public Lands In Utah. In an op-ed, PERC President Terry Anderson wrote, ”jumping on the Bundy bandwagon, many state legislators are trying to build support for laws similar to Utah’s Transfer of Public Lands Act. The act, signed into law in 2012, calls on the federal government to turn over thousands of acres of lands to the state. Lawmakers from eight western states joined forces on April 18 in Salt Lake to declare ‘enough is enough’ when it comes to the mismanagement of the federal estate. One of the summit organizers, Montana Sen. Jennifer Fielder, said, ‘There is a distinct difference in the way federal agencies are managing the federal lands today. They used to do a good job, but they are hamstrung now with conflicting policies, politicized science, and an extreme financial crisis at the national level. It makes it impossible for these federal agencies to manage the lands responsibly anymore.’ Almost no one with an interest in federal land management can disagree with Fielder’s conclusion – even the land managers themselves.” [Missoulian05/12/14]

Former PERC President Terry Anderson Wrote A “Blueprint For Auctioning Off All Public Lands” 

Terry Anderson, The President Of PERC, Wrote A Policy Analysis Titled “How And Why To Privatize Federal Lands.” [CATO, 11/09/99]

  • In The Paper, Anderson Gave A “Blueprint For Auctioning Off All Public Lands.” “Fully a third of the land area of the United States is owned by the federal government. Although many Americans support the preservation of those lands, analysts on the left and the right agree that the federal government has done an exceedingly poor job of stewarding those resources. Indeed, the failure of socialism is as evident in the realm of resource economics as it is in other areas of the economy. […] Accordingly, we offer a blueprint for auctioning off all public lands over 20 to 40 years. Both environmental quality and economic efficiency would be enhanced by private rather than public ownership. Land would be auctioned not for dollars but for public land share certificates (analogous to no par value stock certificates) distributed equally to all Americans.” [CATO, 11/09/99]

PERC Produced A Study Arguing That States Are A Better Manager Of Public Land Than The Federal Government

PERC’s Study Compared Federal Land Management To State Management Of Public Land. “This study compares state and federal land management in the West. It examines the revenues and expenditures associated with federal land management and compares them with state trust land management in four western states: Montana, Idaho, New Mexico, and Arizona. The report explains why revenues and expenditures differ between state and federal land agencies and discusses several possible implications of transferring federal lands to the states. […] The federal government loses money managing valuable natural resources on federal lands, while states generate significant financial returns from state trust lands.” [PERC, March 2015]

The Study Derided Federally Managed Public Land For Not Focusing On Revenue Generation. “Federal land agencies lose billions of dollars each year managing valuable resources on federal lands. The current federal land system fails to foster fiscal responsibility and, in some cases, also fails to produce environmental stewardship. Managing these lands should provide a rich source of revenues to benefit the public, but it is instead coming at a high cost to taxpayers.” [PERC, March 2015]

The Study Concluded That The Transfer Of Federal Public Land To States Would Result In “Much Greater Revenues.” “Nearly half of the western United States is owned by the federal government. In recent years, several western states have considered resolutions demanding that the federal government transfer much of this land to state ownership. These efforts are motivated by concerns over federal land management, including restrictions on natural resource development, poor land stewardship, limitations on access, and low financial returns.” […] If federal lands were transferred, states could likely earn much greater revenues than the federal government.” [PERC, March 2015]

  • The Study Praised State Management And Called For “Reform” Of Federal Land Management.” “States have clearly demonstrated their ability to generate greater returns from land management than the federal government—a fact that is even more remarkable considering how scattered state trust lands are across the West. State trust lands offer compelling evidence that our federal lands are in need of reform.” [PERC, March 2015]

Land Transfer Advocates Rely Heavily On PERC’s Study When They Argue For Eliminating Federal Public Land 

The American Lands Council, The Leading Group Advocating For Eliminating Federal Public Land, Promotes PERC’s Study As A Reason To Transfer Federal Public Lands. “Backing up the American Land Council’s position is a report published in March by the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) – a think tank that argues that property rights and markets are better at managing public lands than government. The study examines the revenues and expenditures associated with federal land management compared with state trust land management in four Western states: Montana, Idaho, New Mexico and Arizona.” [Agri-Pulse, 06/10/15]

  • The American Lands Council Includes The PERC Report In Its “ALC Leader Tool Kit.” [American Lands Council, accessed 11/22/19]

PERC Says That Without Reform, The Land And Water Conservation Fund “Should Be Terminated” 

PERC Wants Dramatic Reforms To The Land And Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Without Those Changes, PERC Says The Fund “Should Be Terminated” 

PERC Said That Without Its Preferred Extreme Reforms, LWCF “Should Be Terminated.” “The LWCF must be reformed to advance its original purpose. Without reform, the LWCF should be terminated. In light of the above facts, the Land and Water Conservation Fund must be reformed if it is going to fulfill or advance its original purpose. Otherwise, it should be terminated. Popular misconceptions about the LWCF—including the supposed lack of costs to the American taxpayer—warp the political process of federal priority setting and for overall federal expenditures as well.” [PERC, 04/28/16]

PERC Says That LWCF Should Not Be Used For Land Acquisition. “Congress has used the LWCF to expand the federal estate without adequately funding the maintenance and conservation of existing public lands. The LWCF creates political pressures on Congress to allocate funding for the specific purposes authorized under the Act, such as federal land acquisition, which has received the majority of LWCF funds. Today, however, there are arguably more urgent needs on public lands than simply acquiring additional federal lands. Federal land agencies are already so short of funds that they are often unable to meet their basic statutory purposes or perform the basic management and maintenance functions necessary to ensure their protection. […] Acquiring more federal land at a time when the federal land management system is itself in a state of crisis seems a particularly perverse outcome.” [PERC, 04/28/16]

PERC Opposes Permanent Reauthorization Of LWCF. In A blog post, PERC said it is a “myth” that “permanent reauthorization will advance the original goals of the LWCF. […] In light of the above facts, the Land and Water Conservation Fund must be reformed if it is going to fulfill or advance its original purpose.” [PERC, 04/28/16]

PERC Says It Is A “Myth” That “LWCF Is Critical To Protect Public Lands For Future Generations.” [PERC, 04/28/16]

PERC Supports Much Of The Trump Administration’s Agenda To Reduce Protections For Public Land, National Parks, And Endangered Species

PERC Supports The Trump Administration’s Effort To Gut The Endangered Species Act

PERC Praised Changes To The Endangered Species Act That Critics Warn Will “Put More Wildlife At A Greater Risk Of Extinction.” “The Trump administration announced a major overhaul Monday to the Endangered Species Act that it said would reduce regulations. Environmentalists said the changes would push more animals and plants to extinction because of threats from climate change and human activities. The changes end blanket protections for animals newly deemed threatened and allow federal authorities for the first time to take into account the economic cost of protecting a particular species. […] At least 10 attorneys general joined conservation groups in protesting an early draft of the changes, saying they would put more wildlife at greater risk of extinction. […] The Property and Environment Research Center praised the changes. ‘Our interest is getting this landmark wildlife protection law to work better,’ Executive Director Brian Yablonski said. ‘That means fostering conditions so landowners become more enthusiastic in their role as stewards for species recovery, not worried if they find an endangered species on their land.’” [USA Today08/12/19]

PERC’s Executive Director Attended The Trump Administration’s Announcement Of The Endangered Species Act Reforms. “Brian Yablonski is the executive director of the Property and Environment Research Center. He was at the administration’s unveiling ceremony Monday in a crowded room.” [NPR, 08/13/19]

  • Critics Said Trump’s Overhaul Was “Gutting The Endangered Species Act.” The greater good. It’s a concept that runs throughout recent reports from the world’s scientists on the urgent need for climate action, the need to expand the role of lands in climate solutions, the need to slow the accelerating loss of protected wild places and to save wildlife. Yet, as the gutting of the Endangered Species Act this week demonstrates, it’s also a foreign concept to a Trump administration focused on putting profits ahead of people. The new Endangered Species Act regulations issued this week sweep aside important protections for threatened and endangered species to benefit exploitative industries. Political motives — cynically justified in the name of economics and efficiency — are overruling science, with wildlife experts excluded from the decision-making process. That tragic result of these tactics, which are the modus operandi for Trump administration environmental policy, is that more species will cease to exist in our lifetime.” [CNN, 08/16/19]

PERC Opposes National Monument Protections And Wants To Make The Antiquities Act “A Thing Of The Past”

In A Deleted Article, PERC Said “It Is Time To Make The Antiquities Act A Thing Of The Past. [PERC, 02/14/17 (archived)]

  • The article, written by PERC research fellow Shawn Regan, is still available on The National Review. [National Review02/14/17]

PERC Attacked The Antiquities Act As An Antiquated “Progressive Era Policy” “Predicated On The Notion That The Expert Judgment Of Washington, DC Is Superior To That Of Local Communities.” “Like many Progressive Era policies, the Antiquities Act is predicated on the notion that the expert judgement of Washington, D.C. is superior to that of local communities. Its defenders in this case have expressed contempt for Utah’s desire to choose its own land policies. The outdoor industry has its recycled-polyester knickers in a bunch over the resolution signed by Governor Herbert. Patagonia announced last week that it will no longer attend the Outdoor Retailer trade show, a lucrative event held twice a year in Salt Lake City, and, along with Arc’teryx, is calling for the industry to move the event to another state that is more supportive of federal lands. Meanwhile, President Trump is reportedly ‘eager to work with’ Republicans to undo the Bears Ears designation, though no president has ever undone a predecessor’s monument designation and it’s unclear Trump would have the authority to do so. Ryan Zinke, Trump’s nominee for secretary of the interior, has said he plans to visit Utah as his first order of business to address the Bears Ears controversy.” [PERC, 02/14/17 (archived)]

PERC Dismissed Bears Ears National Monument As A “Monument To Presidential Vanity.” “Obama is just the latest in a long line of presidents to create ‘midnight monuments’ in the waning days of their administrations. At the end of the day, even modern progressives must admit that such monuments to presidential vanity are a bad thing. If government is the things we do together, then we should govern together. And if monument designations are truly good public policy, they shouldn’t require eleventh-hour executive actions that thwart the legislative process to become reality. It’s time to make the Antiquities Act a thing of the past.” [PERC, 02/14/17 (archived)]

PERC Supported The Trump Administration’s Illegal Decision To Use User Fees To Keep Parks Open During The 2019 Government Shutdown 

PERC Supported The Trump Administration’s Controversial Decision To Use Fee Revenue To Run Parks During The January 2019 Government Shutdown. “Now in week No. 3 of the government shutdown, so much trash has piled up at national parks that legislators are using it as a prop to score political points. The latest uproar is over the Interior Department’s decision to tap already collected fee revenues to provide basic services to keep some parks open. Democratic legislators immediately promised to investigate the legality of the policy. Jonathan Jarvis, the Obama-era director of the National Park Service, also criticized the approach, noting that fee revenues have ‘always been interpreted by the Park Service as not available for operations.’ […] But the hand wringing over the idea of spending fee revenues on park operations is absurd. It flies in the face of the way the current fee program was established and the way it’s used at certain parks today, including the most-visited one in the nation. The underlying problem with the fee program is heavy-handed internal controls that agency administrators have imposed on local park staff.” [The Hill01/11/19]

The Decision To Use Fees To Keep Parks Open During The Shutdown Was A Disaster For Parks. “During the five-week government shutdown, the Trump administration opted to leave national parks open despite the furloughing of a majority of park staff. The decision lead to a number of maintenance issues at parks, including clogged bathrooms, overflowing trash cans and at times the misuse of park sites. Joshua Tree National Park and other parks in the West felt the heaviest burden, as the shutdown occurred during the height of their visitation season.” [The Hill02/06/19]

  • Interior Had To Retroactively Reverse The Decision After Backlash. “The National Park Service (NPS) will retroactively pull from congressionally appropriated funds to pay for the park maintenance and other operations the Trump administration authorized during the partial government shutdown, according to an internal NPS memo obtained by The Hill Wednesday. Dan Smith, NPS’s deputy director and its top official, told staff in an emailed memo that the agency will reverse its earlier, controversial decision to use park visitor entrance fees to pay for maintenance and staffing needs under the shutdown. Instead, he said the NPS will use money from the spending bill Congress approved to end the shutdown to pay for those costs.” [The Hill02/06/19]
  • Later, The GAO Determined That The Decision To Use Fees To Keep Parks Open Was Illegal. “An independent government watchdog says the Interior Department violated spending laws by using money meant for maintenance and improvements in national parks to pay for day-to-day operations during the government shutdown. During the shutdown in December and January, the Interior Department decided to tap into a fund of money collected from fees in National Parks to pay to keep the parks open and help collect trash and protect them from damage. Democrats in Congress opposed the decision saying the administration was using money meant to help the maintenance backlog in national parks. The Government Accountability Office found the department violated laws on the use of appropriated funds by using that fee money for operations that normally would have been part of its congressionally appropriated budget, specifically trash collection and restroom maintenance. Violations of the Anti-Deficiency Act are technically a criminal violation but are not frequently prosecuted.” [ABC News, 09/05/19]
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