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Key Facts

Nonuse Rights: An Innovative Way to Conserve Natural Resources
Conservation Has Typically Relied on the Government
Introducing: Nonuse Rights
This market-based approach is called acquiring “nonuse rights,” and it is successfully applied on private lands across the world. Shockingly, it is often illegal or blocked by federal or state governments on public lands.
Old Laws Prevent Conservation
Long-standing use-it-or-lose-it rules dating back to the late 1800s stipulate that there must be “diligent development” of leases for public natural resources. These rules made sense back then to discourage waste and prevent speculation. But today they prevent healthy bidding competition between companies focused on resource extraction and environmental groups focused on conservation.
Steps Toward More Conservation
State and federal policy should be reformed to include conservation as a legally valid form of “use.” Authorizing nonuse would enable environmental groups to compete against mining, logging, and livestock businesses in a market setting. This elegant solution would enable markets to advance environmental goals, leading to more stable and less contentious outcomes than currently realized through politics and courtroom battles.