Property and Environment Research Center

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Property and Environment Research Center
Motto Improving Environmental Quality Through Property Rights and Markets
Formation 1982
Headquarters Bozeman, Montana
President Terry L. Anderson
Executive Director Dino Falaschetti

The Property and Environment Research Center, or PERC, is a free market environmentalist think tank based in Bozeman, Montana, United States. Established in 1982, originally as the Political Economy Research Center, PERC is dedicated to original research on market approaches to resolving environmental problems. PERC is primarily funded by foundations[1].


Free Market Environmentalism (FME)[2] is an approach to environmental problems that focuses on improving environmental quality using property rights and markets. It emphasizes three important points:

  • Markets, property rights, and the rule of law are fundamental to economic growth, and economic growth is fundamental to improving environmental quality. There is a strong correlation between treatment of the environment and standards of living.
  • Property Rights make the environment an asset rather than a liability thus giving owners an incentive for stewardship.
  • Markets and the process of exchange give people who have different ideas and values regarding natural resource use a way of cooperating rather than fighting. When cooperation supplants conflict, gains from trade supplant negative-sum games.

Research and Policy Analysis[edit]

PERC scholars produce a wide range of materials examining environmental issues through the Free Market Environmentalism lens. Their research takes a critical look at a number of environmental laws (such as the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, etc.), means of establishing and transacting property rights, and how markets can facilitate environmental conservation.

Some of PERC's research also examines some popular practices that people engage in and what effect they have on the environment. "Greener than Thou"[3] breaks down conservative and liberal environmental stereotypes, making that "stereotypes can be replaced by pragmatic solutions that improve environmental quality without increasing red tape." PERC has also released a book, "The Locavore's Dilemma: In Praise of the 10,000 Diet,"[4] which illustrates the impact of subsistence agriculture and the role industrial agriculture plays in making a variety of foods available. This book goes on to "show how eliminating agriculture subsidies and opening up international trade, not reducing food miles, is the real route to sustainability; and why eating globally, not only locally, is the way to save the planet."

Applied Programs[edit]

PERC also coordinates a number of Applied Programs, Workshops, and Fellowships. These run the gamut from addressing the role of the 'Enviropreneur'[5] in conserving natural resources, connecting renowned ecologist's to economic professors, and hosting undergraduate Colloquiums[6] aimed at introducing Free Market Environmentalism.

The 'Enviropreneur' Institute[7] is 'for early to mid-career environmental leaders who are interested in learning innovative market-based approaches for conservation.' It provides a unique opportunity for Environmental Entrepreneurs to not only network with each other, but a number of mentors and scholars at PERC.

PERC also offers a number of Fellowships[8] that allows Graduate Students, Journalists, Professors, and Environmental Entrepreneurs to conduct research in Bozeman, MT.

The Julian Simon Fellowship[9] "is one of the nation's most prestigious opportunities for scholars to develop policy-oriented research on natural resource and environmental conservation. The in-residence fellowship is intended to continue the legacy of the late Julian Simon, whose research led to a massive re-evaluation by scholars and policy makers of their views on the interplay between population, natural resources, and the environment."

Lone Mountain Fellows[10] spend time working on a book, the initial development of a dataset, a policy study, or course materials for environmental studies. Depending on the project undertaken, these scholars may spend anywhere from a week to a year at PERC.

Graduate Fellows[11] spend three months at PERC during the summer. While there, fellows are required to present two to three seminars to outline, report on, and summarize their research findings. A paper of publishable quality is the expected result.

The Enviroprenuer-in-Residence[12] Program gives environmental entrepreneurs the opportunity to refine their projects while accessing a number of scholars at PERC.

Also, PERC hosts a number of workshops that vary from focusing on Environmental Finance, connecting ecologists with economists, and addressing various public policies.


PERC research is presented in a number of mediums which target a number of audiences. From the PERColator Blog[13] to peer reviewed articles[14], PERC attempts to make its research accessible to a broad audience.

During the summer of 2012, PERC began releasing podcasts[15] and short videos[16] highlighting various facets of Free Market Environmentalism.

In addition to those efforts, PERC releases PERC Reports[17], a quarterly magazine that addresses environmental problems and market-based solutions. It also is a means of keeping connected to entrepreneurial efforts to enhance environmental conservation.

An example of the scope of PERC Reports is the 2005 issue that addresses the environmental problems of developing countries. It notes some unique market-based solutions, such as farmers were growing chili peppers along the boundaries of their fields to prevent elephants from damaging their crops, since elephants find spicy foods unpalatable. The chili peppers are cheaper than electric fences and can be sold as a cash crop.

PERC seeks to influence public policy through these publications and their Policy Series[18] that provides "policy recommendations that offer new solutions to what may appear to be intractable problems. The Policy Series applies PERC's knowledge of property rights and markets to solving environmental problems. The series tackles recycling, water shortages, biodiversity, salmon restoration, and more."

Unlike many other think tanks critical of environmental laws enacted by Democrats, PERC does not even indirectly support Republican candidates. In October 2004, shortly before the U.S. Presidential election, PERC released a report card giving President George W. Bush a "D-" in organic pollutant control and an "F" in air quality regulation[19].

Although PERC's free market environmentalist theories are similar to the Cato Institute's, PERC has not drawn the same amount of fire from liberal environmental groups. The reason may be that PERC has preferred to focus on education and analysis, rather than criticizing the Worldwatch Institute and similar environmental organizations[20].