There’s been some discussion over at The Commons about the lesson that we should take from the Dr. Suess classic The Lorax. Full text of the book (no pictures, though) can be found here. The free-marketeer interpretation is that the demise of the Truffula trees results not from the greed of the Onceler nor the materialism of the society that gobbles up thneeds just as fast as they please. The reason the Truffula trees are all destroyed is that no one has property rights to them. They are part of the commons, and if the Onceler doesn’t chop them, someone else will.
Regardless of whether one accepts this interpretation, it certainly brings to mind the subject of land trusts. The place to turn here, as Gristmillers (Gristniks?) have learned, is Pat Burns over at Nature Noted. His most recent post points to a New York Times article and map showing which parts of the U.S. are still wild.
Despite some recent troubles, land trusts are extremely appealing in theory. Just think — for the upfront cost of the land, you are able to determine its use for the rest of human existence. Talk about leaving a legacy. Selling the land to a developer has externalities that aren’t included in the sale price, but donating the land to a trust delivers the large, intangible benefit of knowing that you’ve made a permanent mark on the earth for the better.
The other argument for land-trust organizations and private stewardship is that when the land is being managed privately, it can’t be managed in a way that runs contrary to the opinions of the people for whom it’s being managed. The prime example here is the roadless rule, recently overturned by the Bush administration despite wide bipartisan support. John Tierney also wrote on another example last week.