Valuing Constituency| Property Assessments, Land Management and Environmental Stewardship in Central Texas

by Karin Lynn Patzke

Institution: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Year: 2017
Keywords: Law; Environmental studies; History
Posted: 02/01/2018
Record ID: 2160559
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This dissertation examines the recent history of environmental conservation in Texas from three perspectives, and provides an analytic framework for evaluating how political actors and constituents participate in the rule of law. The centerpiece of this analysis examines the use of legal fictions as genres of social action in which evidence and expertise are used to adhere to the rule of law by creating legitimacy through the negotiation of practice. Preliminarily, I examine state environmental politics in the 1990s to understand how wildlife management was construed as a conservation policy for private landowners. I then explore the states legal codes and practices that establish land management practice characterized by property tax law. Finally, I turn to the contemporary practices of Central Texas landowners to understand the consequences of the policy. The focus of this dissertation is the examination of bureaucratic participation and the resulting documents for property tax assessment. Evaluating these different scales of action reveal how landowners, biologists, and state administrators use the bureaucratic policies of tax law to create conservation practices. This work adds to the growing body of literature investigating actually existing neoliberalism (Brenner and Theodor 2002; Hilgers 2011; Ong 2007; Wacquant 2012) to reveal how contradictions between legality and practice are mediated across social relationships. As a component of neoliberal governance, conservation on private lands presents a set of contradictions in which the productive and economic value of land diverges from its historical and cultural value. In conclusion I posit a new legal fiction of property, the inherited value, to understand these contradictions.