Recently, I have found an interesting story about an American Mr. M.C. Davis who spent over $90 million to buy 54 thousand acres (ca. 22 thousands hectares) property in the southeastern U.S in order to convert it to the largest private conservation project east of Mississippi River. In my opinion, after 16 years since the foundation, this project shows perfectly that private ownership not only can better conserve nature, but it is also more efficient than the state ownership.
Mr. Davis made a fortune at a very young age through gambling and investing in real estate. At an age around 70, he decided to spend a significant part of his fortune on 54 thousand acres property in Florida. He was buying land from timber companies. Mr. Davis called the property Nokuse (pronounced “no-go-see”) Plantation, after the Creek Native American word for black bear. More information about the whole project you can find directly at the following website: Nokuse Plantation
Personally, I think that this initiative shows us couple interesting things. In my opinion, this project is a perfect evident that private owner can find a balance between a nature conservation and profit making. For instance, in the Nokuse Plantation, there are running various restoration and reintroduction projects. Many organizations and institutions are willing to support such projects and give the property owner different grants. In addition, there is ongoing environmental education, which serves 4th and 7th grade students, teachers and professional audiences during the school year. Finally, there is also ordinary timber management and forestry, which bring profit to the owners. It looks very balanced and well organized. According to the website, there are only nine employees, who are responsible for managing this property. Looks very efficient to me.
When State fails
In many countries, there is often a problem that State does not have money for such projects or completely fail to perform them. The conservation often comes down to the passive conservation and protection, i.e. close down and do not let anything in. A huge bureaucracy, different lobbyist groups, and corrupted clerks and politicians often lead to the failures.
Private ownership in such case shows that all these problems are instantly solved. I have not heard in my life, that private owner was involved in the corruption scandal; I mean that he took a bribe in order to harm his own property.
Implication to the developing countries where illegal logging is a problem
Recently, I wrote a post about how to solve a problem of illegal logging; you can find my arguments here:
Problem of illegal logging finally solved
Here another idea is coming to my mind that can prevent to some extend the illegal logging and it is closely linked to the question:
Have you noticed that most of illegal logging occurs in the countries where the State ownership dominates?
If such countries would like to stop loses of their natural environment, in my opinion, they should privatize their forests and pass a responsibility to people such as Mr. Davis or other local communities and organizations. In other words, people who can perfectly find a balance between nature conservation and profitable management practices. People who are responsible and have management skills. People who are interested in the long-term perspective of their and their children well-being. For instance, Mr. Davis in one of his interviews said that he is thinking 300 years into the future with his wildlife restoration project.
Unfortunately, politicians are much more myopic and are thinking only in the perspective of the next elections and therefore do not care what will be after their duty.
Next, the problem of illegal logging is that currently nobody is responsible for the forests that are cut down. Clerks and bureaucrats always wash hands off illegal logging and say that they could not do anything. The tragedy of common is a huge issue in countries that suffer from illegal logging activities. And only by conversion of common forests into private properties we are able to decrease the rate of such activities. By doing so, we are giving the new owners an incentive to enforce its sustainability. In addition, by giving power to local communities or private owners, we empower them to make decisions, show that their well-being is dependent on the forest they manage, and finally yet importantly, they should feel responsible for particular piece of land.
No foreign intervention
Similarly, to my previous post, if countries that are aware of the problem of illegal logging within their own land, do not want to stop it (because politicians are often involved and benefit from illegal activities) then I argue that there should not be any foreign intervention. In other words, the developed countries should let developing countries destroy their resources, if they want to do it. Their home, their castle, their mess after. When in Europe there was a forest harvesting on a big scale (legal or illegal) in the past, then nobody was interrupting us to do so. However, it was natural process of countries development, from agriculture through industry up to services. I argue that there is no other way for country to develop then follow this way. After country is reaching proper level of development then there is increasing concern and responsibility about nature and environment. I was writing about it just before the Brexit, when one of the politicians admitted that without UK, some countries will push harder for the economic development first and the environmental policy will go on the second place. It showed what is the hidden goal behind environmental policies : stop other countries to develop.
Whole text about Brexit and its consequences on forests in Europe you can find here:
Now, it looks that developed countries want to stop developing countries, because they are afraid of the competition on the market.
Paying developing countries to stop deforestation and degradation is a non-sense in my view and it is only a waste of money. The same as we cannot intervene in the life of another person, we should not intervene in the cases of other nations and their resources.
Therefore, another way to stop illegal logging is to make private ownership powerful. Private owners will treat their piece of a land as an asset, which brings them profit (tourism, active forest management, grants from conservation organizations etc.).
The property of Mr. Davis is a good example how to do it right, and many should learn from it.
If you do not agree with me, please comment below. With pleasure, I will take a part in the discussion.