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Biodiversity Law: Natural Resource Use & Conservation

Professor Patrick Parenteau
W74-544A sec 01
M, T, W, Th, 10:30 AM - 12:30 PM
(3 hrs)

Traditionally, Natural Resource Law has been principally concerned with the rights and responsibilities of those seeking to use land and its associated resources for commercial purposes: mining, logging, grazing, damming, diverting, pumping, etc.. For much of its history the United States has pursued a policy of land conversion and resource extraction, on the assumption that growth was good and resources were inexhaustible. With the advent of the "environmental era" around 1970 people began to question the unrestrained consumption of natural resources in the name of progress. Starting with the National Environmental Policy Act in 1970, a large body of federal environmental law has come into being over the past three decades, requiring more careful land use planning, pollution abatement and prevention, and resource conservation. Yet the impact of human activity continues to exact a heavy toll on the natural world. Scientists believe we are in the midst of the "sixth great extinction" of plants and animals worldwide. Entire ecosystems, such as the tall grass prairies and virgin forests, have been virtually eliminated from the American landscape. Large portions of our most biologically valuable resources, such as wetlands and estuaries, have been converted and degraded. Strange new organisms, such as pf steria pisccida-- the "cell from hell"--and deformed species are appearing in the world leaving scientists groping for explanations. Many experts are now calling for a less consumptive, less disruptive, and a more "sustainable" approach to the use and of the land, one that respects the value of the services and well-being that healthy ecosystems provide. This course will explore the relationship of humans and nature through a multi-disciplinary lens that includes law, science and economics. Topics will include conservation biology, the multiple use policies of federal lands management, energy and transportation policy, ecological economics, the land trust movement, and sustainable development on both public and private lands. Statutes to be covered include the National Forest Management Act, Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Sustainable Fisheries Act, and Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (the wetlands protection provision), as well as selected state laws. Students will be expected to write a paper (approximately 20 pages) on a topic related to the course. A list of possible topics will be supplied. One quarter of the final grade will be based on class participation.