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The most fundamental environmental problem is this: across our nation there are literally hundreds of millions of acres of important natural resource lands-- farms, forests, wetlands, reservoir watersheds, shore lands, endangered species habitat--lands that have relatively little commercial value in their present natural condition, but which would have much greater commercial value if their natural values were degraded or destroyed. Stated differently, private property often will yield a much greater profit to its owner if it is used in ways that will harm or obliterate important environmental assets and values. For this reason, private owners are understandably tempted to supplant and eliminate the long-term natural values of their lands in order to carry out projects that will yield them the greatest returns in their own lifetimes. When faced with the grand trade-off between present gratification and future generations, a lot of people naturally favor themselves.