Anglo-American Land Use Attitudes

Environmental Ethics 2 (2):121-148 (1980)
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Abstract

Environmentalists in the United States are often confronted by rural landowners who feel that they have the right to do whatever they want with their land regardless of the consequences for other human beings or of the damage to the environment. This attitude is traced from its origins in ancient German and Saxon land use practices into the political writings of Thomas Jefferson where it was fused togetherwith John Locke’s theory of property. This view of land and property rights was most influential in the late nineteenth century after the passage of the Homestead Act in 1862 when it was used in the arguments opposing national parks and nature preservation. Today it remains a formidable obstacle to planning and zoning in rural areas, despite unstated underlying assumptions which are either outdated or false.

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