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News Release
March 1, 2016

New Book Challenges the Harmful Myths of U.S. Environmental Policy

OAKLAND, CA—What if what we think we know about ecology and environmental policy is wrong? What if U.S. environmental laws often make things far worse? What if there were a better way to improve our natural (and human) environment?

Answering these questions and drawing out the implications is the purpose of the new Independent Institute book, Nature Unbound: Bureaucracy vs. the Environment, by Randy Simmons, Ryan Yonk, and Kenneth Sim—a detailed and hard-hitting critique of hallowed, major U.S. environmental policies enacted since the 1960s.

Environmental policy in the United States, the authors argue, has rested on two faulty pillars: an outdated theory about ecosystems (the “balance of nature” doctrine) and a mistaken view of the political process (a childlike naiveté about electoral politics and government bureaucracy). As a result of these misguided views, much of the most celebrated federal legislation of the past fifty years has been detrimental to conservation and environmental quality.

According to Nature Unbound, the Clean Water Act has fallen far short of its goal of eliminating pollution from every waterway in the nation (and slowed down progress at state and local levels); the Endangered Species Act has undermined the protection of threatened species; the insistence that protected wilderness areas be free of all human activities (even conservation management) undermines biodiversity; and renewable energy legislation has mostly wasted resources, rather than conserved them.

More than a critique of false assumptions and flawed policies, Nature Unbound offers bold principles to help us rethink environmental objectives, align incentives with goals, and affirm the notion that human beings are an integral part of the natural order and merit no less consideration than earth’s other treasures.

About the Authors: Randy T Simmons is Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute, Professor of Economics at Utah State University, and president of Strata. Ryan M. Yonk is Research Fellow at the Independent Institute, and Research Director for the Center for Public Lands and Rural Economics in the Department of Economics at Utah State University. Kenneth J. Sim is Director of the Reliable Energy Education Network.

The Independent Institute is a non-profit, research and educational organization that promotes the power of independent thinking to boldly advance peaceful, prosperous, and free societies grounded in a commitment to human worth and dignity. For more information visit

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