One way of influencing change in the way forestry is practiced to benefit habitat for animals, or conservation of biodiversity, is through incentive programs such as certification (see previous chapter), tax relief, or compensation for ecosystem services through the form of easements, land purchases, purchases of carbon credits, or habitat banking (Pagiola et al. 2002). More typically, certain practices are prescribed by law. In the United States, laws are policies enacted by legislature and signed into law by an executive branch and enforced through a judicial branch of government. There are certain things that society values strongly enough to prescribe it. Keep species. Manage forests for sustained yield. Do not participate in trade of globally endangered species.
Some policies are set at local levels, such as counties, towns, and even neighborhoods. Zoning laws, building permits, and noise limitations are all set locally and enforced locally. The layers of policies, laws, regulatory agencies, and responsibilities regarding forest management and wildlife conservation, are at times overwhelming, especially to private forest land managers, and that is where the crux of the habitat management problem often lies. Wildlife are public resources whose habitat is most often controlled by private landowners with private property rights. It is relatively easy to envision an ecosystem management plan for a public property, whereby the outcomes of implementing the plan are a set of ecosystem services valued by society, using public land for the public good (Thomas et al. 2006). Private property owners have property rights, and, in some places, they may also have water and mineral rights, restricting what society can demand from their land (Bliss et al. 1997). So although society may say it wants active habitat management for a rare species on private lands, unless the land is deemed critical habitat for an endangered species, society cannot make the landowner do anything—unless there are laws.