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Law's Environment

Law's Environment: How the Law Shapes the Places We Live

Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Law's Environment
    Book Description:

    John Copeland Nagle shows how our reliance on environmental law affects the natural environment through an examination of five diverse places in the American landscape: Alaska's Adak Island; the Susquehanna River; Colton in California's Inland Empire; Theodore Roosevelt National Park in the badlands of North Dakota; and Alamogordo in New Mexico. Nagle asks why some places are preserved by the law while others are not, and he finds that environmental laws often have unexpected results while other laws have surprising effects on the environment. Nagle argues that sound environmental policy requires better coordination among the many laws, regulations, and social norms that determine the values and uses of our scarce lands and waters.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16291-2
    Subjects: Law, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-9)

    This is a book about how the law affects the natural environment in which we live. Environmental law tells us how much pollution we must tolerate. It forbids additional pollution in seemingly clear places while declining to remove worse pollution from others. Environmental law also chooses which areas are worth preserving. The law insists on the preservation of some areas, through such designations as national parks and wildlife refuges, while ignoring pleas to preserve other landscapes. These choices about the law go far in determining the state of the natural environment in each place.

    Often, these choices are made in...

  6. CHAPTER ONE The End of the Earth: ADAK ISLAND, ALASKA
    (pp. 10-49)

    “Adak! That place is the end of the earth,” exclaimed my colleague, a native of Anchorage. A 1943 documentary produced and directed by John Huston and his father Walter Huston suggests that Adak is even more distant than that. “Remote as the moon and hardly more fertile,” the narrator intones, “Adak is next to worthless in terms of human existence.” Eliot Asinof, who later wroteEight Men Out, shared that assessment in aSaturday Evening Postarticle recalling his time on Adak during World War II; he described the island as “something worse than hell—barren, bleak, relentlessly ugly.” In...

  7. CHAPTER TWO The Mayor’s Oversized Flyswatter: COLTON, CALIFORNIA
    (pp. 50-92)

    One day in 2002, the mayor of Colton, California, appeared at a press conference wielding a giant flyswatter. Deirdre Bennett did not usually carry such a prop when she spoke, but on that day Mayor Bennett said that her city was being held hostage to a fly—a three-inch, brownish, pollinating Delhi Sands flower-loving fly that the federal government had listed as endangered pursuant to the ESA in 1993. Mayor Bennett’s stunt did not work—she failed to persuade Congress to remove the fly from the ESA’s protected list—and both the City of Colton and the fly’s supporters continue...

    (pp. 93-143)

    General alfred sully was a protégé of General George McClellan during the Civil War. And so when President Abraham Lincoln dismissed McClellan in 1862 for failing to aggressively prosecute the war, Sully found himself reassigned to the remote Dakota Territory. He spent the next decade traversing uncharted land as he fought the Sioux Indians. During one of those trips he quipped that the badlands of what is now western North Dakota looked like “hell with the fires burned out.”¹

    A few years later, in September 1883, a twenty-five-year-old New Yorker named Theodore Roosevelt arrived in the badlands to hunt a...

    (pp. 144-195)

    The susquehanna river is simultaneously famous and forgotten. It is the longest river on the Atlantic seaboard, flowing 444 miles from New York through Pennsylvania and Maryland into the Chesapeake Bay. Its 27,500-square-mile watershed drains sixty-seven counties and comprises 43 percent of the Chesapeake Bay’s drainage area. The river is a mile wide at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and it is shallow for nearly its whole course. The Susquehanna has captured the imagination of artists such as Frederic Edwin Church, Benjamin West, Jasper Cropsey, Samuel F. B. Morse, and Nathaniel Currier and James Ives. Robert Louis Stevenson rhapsodized that when he learned...

    (pp. 196-240)

    The city snuck up on me. I was approaching from the north, driving through the New Mexican desert around twilight on a June evening, but few city lights were visible amidst the barren landscape. Actually, that is the whole point. I was visiting Alamogordo because it is reputed to have the most stringent light pollution law in the United States. Once there, I discovered that the area around Alamogordo has long been an ecotourist destination that presents several novel legal questions, even questions of international law.

    Alamogordo is a city of about thirty-five hundred people located in southern New Mexico....

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 241-252)

    I began this book without any preconceived notions of what I would learn as I studied the five places that I had selected. I was surprised by much of what I discovered. The controversy regarding the ownership of the national grasslands in North Dakota’s badlands has no parallel in the law. Disputes about public land management are common, and calls for the federal government to divest itself of public lands have been heard from the nineteenth century to the Sagebrush Rebellion of the 1970s to the present day. But it is rare to encounter a serious legal argument that insists...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 253-281)
    (pp. 282-284)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 285-298)