Environmental laws don’t always impact the environment in expected ways and, in other cases, laws seemingly unrelated to the environment have a tremendous impact on our habitats.
Notre Dame’s John N. Matthews Professor of Law John Nagle explains this phenomenon in his new book, “Law’s Environment: How the Law Shapes the Places We Live (Yale University Press, 2010). The book examines five diverse places: Alaska’s Adak Island; the Susquehanna River; Colton in California’s Inland Empire; Theodore Roosevelt National Park in the badlands of western North Dakota; and Alamogordo in southern New Mexico.
“Only by looking closely at a specific place do you begin to recognize that many laws combine to influence a given environment, and those laws produce different results in different places,” says Nagle. “This approach encourages further study of how environmental law is actually applied, and how other laws produce significant effects upon the environment as well.”
“Law’s Environment” also illustrates how the values of an individual community may compete with the purpose of an environmental law. One example is the impoverished town of Colton, California, also home to the endangered Delhi Sands flower-loving fly. Nagle notes that “the city’s economic needs have produced a sharp conflict between the desires of the local zoning officials and the habitat preservation demands of the federal Endangered Species Act.”
Nagle’s book argues that sound environmental policy cannot be decided in a vacuum. “[It] requires better coordination among the many laws, regulations, and social norms that determine the values and uses of our scarce lands and waters,” he says.
Nagle launched his book on Friday, April 23, by hosting a panel discussion during which legal and environmental experts offered comments about the book.
- William Kelley, University of Notre Dame Associate Professor of Law
- Abner S. Greene, Leonard F. Manning Professor of Law, Fordham University School of Law
- David Lodge, University of Notre Dame Professor of Biological Sciences
- The Honorable Deanell Reece Tacha, Circuit Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit