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The Right of Nonuse$
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Jan G. Laitos

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780195386066

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195386066.001.0001

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An Introduction to the History of Law and Natural Resources

An Introduction to the History of Law and Natural Resources

(p.77) 8 An Introduction to the History of Law and Natural Resources
The Right of Nonuse

Jan G. Laitos

Oxford University Press

Laws initially encouraged and protected resource use. Contract law permitted one user to make enforceable, credible marketplace deals with other potential users of resources so that the resource would wind up with the user most willing to pay for it. Property law allowed users to own the resource, and to exercise the right to control, develop, and exploit it to enhance the owner's selfish interests. Gradual resource exhaustion and depletion caused lawmakers to adopt another category of “first generation” resource use laws designed to slow unchecked resource extraction, and create a more sustainable resource base for future generations of resource use. These conservation laws still had as their primary purpose the long-term use of resources, albeit use that was now somewhat regulated to moderate the unchecked exploitation that had threatened the long-term viability of both exhaustible and renewable resources. But by the middle of the twentieth century, both categories of resource use laws had not prevented the depletion of the stock and renewable resource base. Moreover, such use had begun to pollute public environmental foods, such as the air, the water, and the soils. The heretofore dominant “use” component of natural uses was now threatening the critical “nonuse” component.

Keywords:   contract law, property law, conservation law, nonuse, stock resource base, renewable resource base

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