AbstractsLaw & Legal Studies

Toward More Effective Endangered Species Regulation

by Jacob Peter Byl

Institution: Vanderbilt University
Department: Law and Economics
Degree: PhD
Year: 2015
Keywords: Conservation; Endangered Species; Experiment; Environmental Markets
Record ID: 2062680
Full text PDF: http://etd.library.vanderbilt.edu/available/etd-03232015-105035/


The Endangered Species Act is a strong environmental law that gives federal agencies authority to conserve imperiled species by regulating private and public parties. In this dissertation, I use data on timber harvests near endangered woodpeckers in North Carolina to estimate that landowners are 25% more likely to harvest mature pine trees if there are woodpeckers nearby. A safe-harbor program appears to have a modest effect on slowing the destruction of habitat. I next use a computer-based experiment to confirm that the safe-harbor program is an improvement for both landowners and endangered species over the status quo of strict regulation. A policy with strong financial incentives is most effective at encouraging landowner cooperation, but weak financial incentives are surprisingly ineffective. Finally, I explore the role of cost-benefit analysis of critical habitat designation under the Endangered Species Act. The current agency methodology leads to estimates of low costs and zero benefits of critical habitat. I argue that agencies should use a broader concept of costs and benefits because it is a better reading of the Act and can lead to more effective regulations.