Private Lands, Conflict, and Institutional Evolution in the Post-Public-Lands West

91 Pages Posted: 27 Feb 2011 Last revised: 28 Feb 2012

See all articles by Jerrold A. Long

Jerrold A. Long

University of Idaho College of Law

Date Written: November 1, 2010


As rural communities experience amenity-driven population growth and globalizing cultures and economic systems, community land-use regimes must react to and implement emerging land-use ideologies. A growing community must balance the interests of the entities that benefit from growth – i.e., the growth machine – and the potentially restructuring community understandings of the purpose of land. This conflict is particularly intense in areas that benefit both economically and culturally from high quality natural amenities – one part of the community might seek to increase development to benefit from those amenities, while another might seek to protect them. This article engages in a theoretical and empirical exploration that seeks to answer a single question: Why, in the face of those competing land-use ideologies, might a community choose to adopt a more resource-protective, or resource-sustaining, land-use regime? This article follows three distinct theoretical pathways to where they converge in two specific communities, and then engages in an empirical assessment of the land-use conditions on the ground in those communities. I ultimately conclude that because a community can only understand the value of a particular choice by experiencing its effects, a legal evolution toward resource-protective, or resource-sustaining, land-use regimes only occurs after the valued resources are harmed – a result we might like to avoid. For that reason, the crux on the path toward sustainability is to accurately imagine – before directly witnessing – the consequences of the alternatives available to us.

Keywords: Sustainability, Local Government, Land Use, Pragmatism

Suggested Citation

Long, Jerrold A., Private Lands, Conflict, and Institutional Evolution in the Post-Public-Lands West (November 1, 2010). Pace Environmental Law Review (PELR), Vol. 28, p. 670, 2011, Available at SSRN:

Jerrold A. Long (Contact Author)

University of Idaho College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 442321
Moscow, ID 83844-2321
United States

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