The following essay was inspired by David Crespo of the Libertarian Party of Miami-Dade chapter, who recently posted about the Everglades, conservation, and the biggest polluter: our government. 

A New Dawn For The Everglades: Libertarianism, Private Ownership, And Environmental Preservation

As the crisis in the Everglades continues to worsen, new approaches to conservation are being seriously considered – but they lack one very basic thing that is all too often ignored by conservationists and government alike. Libertarians offer an unconventional yet compelling solution: the privatization of the Everglades. The argument for privatization is grounded in the philosophy of Murray Rothbard, the Austrian economist who proposed that the most effective environmental stewards are private property owners, not governmental agencies.

Storied History, Bleak Future

The Everglades, often described as the “River of Grass,” is a world-renowned ecological treasure. Once covering nearly three million acres, the Everglades has been shrunk to nearly half its original size, primarily due to government-approved land drainage to pave the way for agriculture and urban development. The government agencies assigned to manage and protect this unique ecosystem have unfortunately not proved sufficient.

Despite generally well-meaning intentions, government oversight has consistently proven ineffective in preventing pollution, halting the spread of invasive species, and enforcing restrictions on destructive human activities. It is disheartening to consider, but as Rothbard highlighted, privatization could offer a solution by holding individuals accountable for their actions and potentially reducing pollution. Today, government cronyism frequently results in the legalization of pollution for well-connected entities. This raises the question: Is there an alternative approach to preserving and restoring the Everglades that does not rely on government intervention?

Failed Attempts: Governmental Stewardship

Historically, government intervention in the Everglades has been well-intentioned but largely ineffective. The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), launched in 2000 with a projected cost of $7.8 billion, aimed to “restore, preserve, and protect the south Florida ecosystem while providing for other water-related needs of the region.” Two decades on, only a fraction of the projects have been completed, and costs have escalated to an estimated $13.5 billion.

The Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP), another governmental initiative, sought to improve water flow and reduce damaging freshwater discharges to coastal estuaries. Unfortunately, progress has been very slow, overwhelmed by delays and lack of funding. Governmental conservation efforts have also been hindered by an inability to address the root causes of the Everglades’ degradation. Policies have focused primarily on symptoms, such as nutrient pollution, without tackling the key drivers of habitat loss, namely agriculture and urban development.

The government has also struggled to control the spread of invasive species, such as the Burmese python. Despite a variety of control measures, including public hunting programs and detection dogs, the python population continues to devastate native wildlife.

Burmese Python, a non-native species found in the Everglades.

The failures of government efforts open the door to conversation for fresh, innovative approaches to conservation. It is against this backdrop of ongoing crisis and government inadequacy that libertarians propose a new way forward: privatization.

The Case For Privatization

Many libertarians are deeply influenced by Rothbard’s theories and contend that private property rights are the answer. As libertarians, we argue that landowners, driven by a mixture of self-interest, love of the land, and the desire for profit, would be far more effective stewards of the environment. As Rothbard wrote, “In short, if property rights were to be defended fully… then our environmental problems would be over.” The reasoning is straightforward: When landowners face the prospect of decreased land value due to pollution or degradation, they have a direct incentive to maintain and preserve their property. Private owners would also be more accountable and responsive than government entities, whose operations often suffer from both inefficiency and corruption.

The Everglades: a delicate ecosystem in peril. Photo via:

Potential Market Solutions

Privatization, though on the surface seems perhaps a radical concept, offers several potential solutions. For example, private owners might monetize the Everglades’ biodiversity by developing ecotourism opportunities, or capitalize on carbon-offset schemes through preservation of the vast carbon-storing peat soils that the Everglades are famed for. They might also generate revenue through sustainable harvesting of natural resources, all while being extremely careful to prevent over-exploitation.

Advancing private property rights could also lead to the creation of private conservancies and nature reserves. Wealthy philanthropists, nature-focused NGOs, or cooperatives of local residents could acquire and manage land, prioritizing ecological preservation. Such arrangements have proven successful in other contexts, from the wilds of Africa to the forests of Central America.


The Everglades presents a compelling case for reconsidering the conventional wisdom around conservation. It’s high time to question whether the government’s monopoly on environmental protection serves our best interests or those of the unique habitats we seek to preserve. While privatization carries its own risks, the principle behind it – vesting control in the hands of those with the greatest incentive to preserve – merits serious consideration. For the Everglades, the move towards a libertarian approach to environmental preservation could very well be the lifeline it so desperately needs.

The Libertarian Party of Florida is the state affiliate of the national Libertarian Party. LPF advocates for individual liberty, limited government, and free markets. With a strong commitment to personal freedom and individual rights, LPF aims to provide a platform for principled, pragmatic, and fiscally responsible solutions to the challenges facing Floridians.

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Lisa Gansky


Lisa Gansky, LPF Secretary, Columbia MBA. Author of "Amplify Your Impact: Generative AI for Volunteers & Activists."