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EDITORIAL: Free-market environmentalism protects redwoods

Alarmist rhetoric is the fuel that drives green fundraising, and the continuous influx of cash pays for an impressive legal apparatus designed to achieve through judicial fiat what the environmental movement can’t accomplish through legislation. But what if there were a better way than obstructionism and enriching attorneys?

Last month, a California group and a private landowner came to an agreement to protect a vast redwood forest 80 miles north of San Francisco. Under the deal, “more than 1,000 acres of land will be preserved,” The Associated Press reported, “while 69 legal parcels that could have been divided into ranchettes and vineyards will be retired.”

In return, the Mailliard family, which owns the property, will continue to have title to the land and will “be allowed to conduct commercial logging at half the rate permitted under state laws on second-growth redwoods there, as it has done for generations.”

To achieve such an end, Save the Redwoods League paid the Mailliards $24.7 million to buy a conservation easement on their ranch property.

“Our vision isn’t to make a park out of every acre of redwood forest,” Sam Holden, president of the conservation group, told the wire service. “We want to make sure we don’t lose any more of it. To do that we want to partner with private landowners and manage land sustainably and support the financial needs of the owners.”

Mr. Holden’s smart and pragmatic approach — putting his group’s money where its mouth is, so to speak — stands in stark contrast to the many green conglomerates that prefer to co-opt the power of the state to trample private property rights in pursuit of their no-growth agenda. It mimics the fine efforts of The Nature Conservancy, an organization that uses its vast resources to purchase environmentally sensitive land to promote conservation, bringing property owners and others to the table in an effort to find common ground.

The lawsuit-happy greens who prefer confrontation over compromise too often ignore the economic interests of communities and land owners — not to mention the Fifth Amendment’s taking clause — in their feverish efforts to tie up virtually any development, private and public, in court.

Mr. Holden and Save the Redwoods League — along with The Nature Conservancy — highlight another option: If you don’t like what property owners propose to do with their land, raise enough money from like-minded folk and buy the real estate yourself rather than pressure a judge or some compliant government agency to do your dirty work.

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