Some environmentalists would rather pay ranchers to give up ranching than try and regulate or litigate them out of existence. As John Tierney explains in today's NYT, groups like the Grand Canyon Trust want to purchase and retire grazing permits owned by ranchers. It's a win-win approach to environmental protection, as environmetnalists get what they want (less grazing on federal lands) and ranchers get what they want (compensation for selling their rights). Alas, the Bush Administration is standing in the way.
If the Bush folks wonder why they have such a bad environmental reputation, policies like this are part of the reason why. Here is an environmental policy that is wholly consistent with the conservative principles of property rights and voluntary market exchange. Yet the administration still opposes it. I think the Bush Administration's environmental policies are often subject to unwarranted criticisms, but cases likes this make the administration hard to defend.
Note: Then-Interior solicitor WIlliam Myers III was partially responsible for this sorry policy. This is one of the reasons I criticized his nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit last year.