John Nalivka: The Battle of Consequences – Who Wins?
April 14, 2016
The Law of Unintended Consequences is defined as "outcomes that are not the ones foreseen and intended by a purposeful action" and in my view this is how best to label what will be the result of the proposed creation of the Owyhee Canyonlands Monument in Malheur County, Oregon. The proponents say that nothing will change concerning the current use of the resources. That comment immediately begs the question, well then, why create a monument?
I have always been cynical with regard to policies concerning natural resources and my cynicism is only growing, particularly with regard to those that do not require Congressional participation.
While most people probably have never heard of the Owyhee Canyonlands, the current controversy surrounding this 2.5 million acre high desert region in eastern Oregon provides a great example of how natural resource policy is often developed. The creation of a monument is intended by some to achieve certain outcomes based on a perceived view of the resource – what might happen if a monument is not created. The best argument against that vision is presented by the people who have used and managed these resources over the past 100 years or more. That opinion is evidence-based knowledge as opposed to the view of those who simply speculate based on perception. Unfortunately, that perception often becomes the reality driving the policy decision. This situation doesn't just exist in Malheur County, Oregon or in states dominated by Federal land in the Western U.S.
USDA has taken on a commitment to "revitalize" rural America and is spending millions of tax-payer dollars to achieve that end. So, on the one hand, natural resource use or non-use is often directed toward policies that limit or completely bring to an end existing economic activity and then attempt to replace that activity with government programs. That does not create economic growth and prosperity.
The tug of war over America's natural resource policy has escalated. We cannot know with certainty the impact of all decisions made today concerning these resources. However, oftentimes, that decision involves reducing or eliminating the role of resource-based industries and the impact of that part of the decision on rural economies has much greater certainty. Not all of the consequences are unintended!