The Corner

Cato, The Forest, & The Trees

Jerry Taylor and Peter Van Doren makes some good points in their piece today on the President’s forest policy, but I must take issue with their attack on devolution. Contrary to their suggestion, the empirical evidence does suggest that state forest management is more efficient than federal management. State forest trust lands out perform equivalent national forest units both economically and environmentally. This is no accident. While state management is not perfect, it is closer to the people who bear the costs and reap the benefits of management decisions. This makes the decisionmakers more accountable, and results in policy decisions that more accurately reflect local tastes and desires. It also promotes interjurisdicitonal competition to develop the best policies and allows interjurisdictional variation to reflect varying tastes. While I share Jerry and Peter’s desire to move toward a free market approach to environmental policy, I disagree that devolving responsibility to states is not a meaningful step in that direction. To the contrary, as I’ve argued here, devolution is likely the most promising path to environmental reform.

Jonathan H. Adler is the Johan Verhiej Memorial Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Business Law and Regulation at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law.

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