The Coastal Barrier Resources Act, signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1982, designates a 3.5-million-acre zone of environmentally sensitive beaches, wetlands, barrier islands, and estuaries along the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Great Lakes as completely off-limits to federal subsidies for development.

In line with his conservative philosophy and respect for property rights, the CBRA does not actually prohibit development within the zone. Instead, it merely insists that federal agencies like the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Flood Insurance Program may not spend any taxpayer dollars to encourage such development.

The result? The government has saved more than $9 billion over the past quarter-century, while 80 percent of CBRA units remain completely undeveloped.

In a new documentary produced by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society detailing the value of nature-based solutions to mitigate the impact of catastrophes, R Street Senior Fellow R.J. Lehmann discusses the history of the CBRA and the way it can serve as a model for a conservative approach to conservation.

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