Cultivating Rural Amenities

An Economic Development Perspective

The future of rural areas is high on the domestic and international policy agenda. Restructuring of the agricultural sector, and accompanying reform of agricultural policies, and the challenge of meeting sustainable development objectives are key preoccupations in OECD countries. In the search for forward-looking and durable policy strategies, building on natural and cultural amenities is emerging as an important area of policy action, one which complements traditional, agriculture-oriented rural policies and places rural policy in the broader territorial development arena.

In most rural areas, the potential of many natural and cultural resources remains untapped. Harnessing such amenities, however, involves striking a balance between use and conservation. In many cases, maintenance of rural amenities depends on a degree of local economic activity -- without it there is a danger of degradation. At the same time, over-exploitation risks spoiling, often irreversibly, the essential value of the amenity. Because many natural and cultural features are public goods, with limited markets and hazy property rights, public policies are needed to strike the delicate balance between supply and demand.

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