On Television: Can We Protect Property Rights And The Environment At The Same Time?



I was on Chris Berg’s 6:30 Point of View program last night debating the “extraordinary places” regulations proposed to the North Dakota Industrial Commission by Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem. The commission adopted the policy, but only for public lands, leaving private lands free.

On the show, columnist Clay Jenkinson argued for the inclusion of private property in those regulations. I, as you might expect, argued the opposite.

I was a little taken aback by Jenkinson’s line of argument. He said that the oil companies are doing a wonderful job in terms of environmental impacts, and are very cooperative when developing minerals around “extraordinary places” like Theodore Roosevelt National Park. All of which made me wonder why it is, then, that we need the “extraordinary places” policy in the first place?

One thing that did irk me, though, was the way Berg a couple of times pitched this debate as being a choice between protecting property rights and protecting the environment, as though the two were mutually exclusive things.

I don’t think that’s true. In fact, I would argue that property rights are the cornerstone of conservation and environmental protection. Property, after all, is valuable. And who has more “skin in the game” when it comes to protecting that value than land owners?

Not all land owners are responsible people, of course. But then again, the government doesn’t always do a good job protecting the land it owns or manages either.