Private land managers make decisions regarding the use of their environmental resources in response to information and incentives contained in the price mechanism. However, the price mechanism often fails to reflect adequately the information relating to the public good attributes of environmental resources. Hence decisions made by private land managers do not necessarily reflect the desires of society as a whole. In this paper the incentives of wetland owners are explored in conjunction with some of the constraints imposed by the production process and the institutional framework. Specifically three aspects of the resource allocation problem faced by society are explored. Firstly, the institutional framework within which private wetland managers operate is examined. Secondly, the nature of private and public outputs produced by a specific environmental resource, wetlands, is analysed. Finally, the nature of the production process that uses wetlands as inputs and jointly produces both private and public goods is investigated. The theoretical construct developed in this paper will be tested as part of the ‘Private and Social Values of Wetlands’ research project currently in progress.