Davis, Steven
In Defense of Public Lands: The Case Against Privatization and Transfer
Temple University Press
Original Date
Summary: "Debates continue to rage over the merits or flaws of public land and whether or not it should be privatized--or at least, radically reconfigured in some way. In Defense of Public Lands offers a comprehensive refutation of the market-oriented arguments. Steven Davis passionately advocates that public land ought to remain firmly in the public's hands. He reviews empirical data and theoretical arguments from biological, economic, and political perspectives in order to build a case for why our public lands are an invaluable and irreplaceable asset for the American people. In Defense of Public Lands briefly lays out the history and characteristics of public lands at the local, state, and federal levels while examining the numerous policy prescriptions for their privatization or, in the case of federal lands, transfer. He considers the dimensions of environmental health; markets and valuation of public land, the tensions between collective values and individual preferences, the nature and performance of bureaucratic management, and the legitimacy of interest groups and community decision-making. Offering a fair, good faith overview of the privatizers' best arguments before refuting them, this timely book contemplates both the immediate and long-term future of our public lands"-- Table of Contents: Preface -- Public land and its discontents -- Every man for himself : the case for privatization -- Getting serious about ecology : the biological case for public lands -- The valuation of the invaluable : the economic case for public lands -- The fundamental democracy of the commons : the political case for public lands, Part 1 -- A closer look at government : the political case for public lands, Part 2 -- The future of public land : looking forward in a time of peril. Notes: Includes bibliographical references (pages 211-261) and index. Review by Mrill Ingram, online Media Editor, The Progressive, Jan. 2019, p. 61: "The adminnistration of Donald Trump has celebrated its efforts to 'liberate' public lands, especially to extractive industries and corporate development. It's opened millions of federally owned acres to oil and gas compaies, including approving the first Arctic offshore oil-drilling development in U.S. waters. "In his book....Steven Davis, a political science professor at Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin, takes on the movement to privatize. Public support for national and state parks and other public lands is high, he observes, but the privatizers are loud and well heeled, and they are threatening our national and cultural heritage. "Davis details the Sagebrush Rebellion, Wise Use Movement, and illegal 2016 occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. He recounts how, since the gains of the Tea Party in 2010, opponents of public lands have garnered support in state and federal legislatures. 'What was previously seen as the intemperate agitation of fringe activists is now the standard stuff of political platforms, floor debates, and campaign speches,' he writes. "Davis provides a useful history of public lands management, and systematically defangs the arguments of privatizers. He does the hard work of engaging with the opposition, and then proceeds to flay them with a lightsaber of ecological, historical, and ecoomic data. He exposes the profound distaste privatizers share for democratic, political process, and their misplaced faith in market-based economics. "What they offer the American public, he writes, 'is pretty thin gruel: the bitter medicine of "market discipline," a lot of "No Trespassing" signs, and $300 tickets for Disney's "Yellowstone Experience".' "Davis does not glorify public lands management, and describes ways it has failed. But in the end, he puts forth a convincing argument that public land agencies do a pretty good job. Sure, it's a messy, political process, but his important book also shows public land management as a progressive strategy: rational, responsive, and science-based. In a world full of tempestuous opinionating and the undermining of democracy for private gain, this is a welcome respite."