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The Extermination and Conservation of the American Bison

52 Pages Posted: 20 Aug 2001  

Dean Lueck

Indiana University Maurer School of Law

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Date Written: August 2001


The dramatic near extinction, and subsequent recovery and partial restoration, of the American Bison during the late 19th century is examined using a property rights model of renewable resource production. The paper considers the implications of bison exploitation under open access, common property, and private property regimes, and further examines how these regimes are determined. Implications are tested against historical and anthropological data on bison populations, robe and hide prices, cattle stocking rates, American military behavior, Indian tribal territories, the costs of harvesting bison, and formal and informal property rights regimes. The study uncovers the details of this famous story in American wildlife conservation and sheds light on the role of markets in fostering extinction and preservation and the evolution of property rights to large-scale natural resources.

Keywords: bison, property rights, first possession, renewable resources

JEL Classification: D23, K11, N51, Q29

Suggested Citation

Lueck, Dean, The Extermination and Conservation of the American Bison (August 2001). Available at SSRN: or

Dean Lueck (Contact Author)

Indiana University Maurer School of Law ( email )

211 S. Indiana Avenue
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

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