Public ownership of fish and wildlife resources dates back many centuries. When colonists fled the tyranny of England for the freedom of the New World, there was a conscious rejection of the English policies that privatized wildlife. While the Crown was supposed to hold wildlife in trust for the people, in fact, those resources were meted out to noblemen and other favorites, and the common man was prohibited from hunting. As the colonists settled the New World with its seemingly limitless abundance, there was no need for conservation. Public ownership of fish and wildlife was upheld by the Supreme Court in several landmark cases during the 1800’s, but otherwise, there was little regulation.
By 1910, some fish and wildlife populations in America had begun to decline due to overuse. Hunters and anglers like Teddy Roosevelt took notice, and pressed for a regulatory framework that ensured the long term survival of these resources. They were early conservationists.
In the 1930’s, Aldo Leopold shaped the next generation of conservationists by stressing scientific management on both public and private lands, and a broadly encompassing land ethic.
Today, these principles have become part of the North American Model for Conservation which forms the bedrock of our conservation philosophy in this country.
Why is privatization dangerous? Inevitably, leads to an aggregation of resources through market forces. The few will benefit at the expense of the many, and our covenant with our children and grandchildren will be irrevocably destroyed.