Property rights hold a central place in our Constitutional design and provide the foundation for America's market economy. Admiration of private property has not been universal, however. Some environmental scholars and policymakers have been particularly critical of classical liberal conceptions of private property on both theoretical and practical grounds, suggesting that traditional, classical liberal notions of property rights are incompatible with the demands of environmental protection. These perspectives influenced the development of command-and-control environmental regulation in the 1960s and 1970s. In recent years, however, the perception of private property's role in environmental conservation has begun to change. Disregard for the rights and interests of property owners spurred a "backlash" of opposition to environmental regulation. Environmental policymakers also came to recognize that the incentives created by land-use may compromise some conservation strategies. These developments spurred a reconsideration of the role of property rights in environmental policy, encouraging the development of more property-friendly regulatory strategies as well as the use of property rights themselves as a tool for environmental protection.


Private property, classical liberalism, environmental protection, command-and-control regulation, land conservation, grazing rights, water rights, fishing rights

Publication Date


Document Type


Place of Original Publication

New York University Journal of Law & Liberty

Publication Information

1 New York University Journal of Law & Liberty 987 (2005)


COinS Jonathan H. Adler Faculty Bio