Environmental Law & Policy

Communities of all sizes, from townships to the national government, establish laws that govern how individuals acting within the community are to conduct themselves. The environment is arguably one of the newest considerations to be decided by and incorporated into the body of the law. The body of law relevant to the environment includes full dedicated statutes, smaller pieces of larger legislation, international treaty agreements, and the immense body of regulatory law, which is promulgated by federal, state, and local agencies. In the 21st Century, the environment has also become a consideration in all types of laws from building codes, customs and shipping laws, finance law, and even space law. This section examines the law (both current laws and the evolving process of legislation), the agencies that administer and develop the law, and the policies that influence developing and current law.

  • America's Climate Choices Featured News Article America's Climate Choices America's Climate Choices

    A report released May 12, 2011, from the National Research Council reiterates the pressing need for substantial action to limit the magnitude of climate change and to prepare... More »

  • Environmental Lessons from China Featured Article Environmental Lessons from China Environmental Lessons from China

    This Commentary, written by Justin V. Remais and Junfeng Zhang*, appeared first in Environmental Health Perspectives—the peer-reviewed, open access journal of the... More »

  • Environmental Assessment Featured Article Environmental Assessment Environmental Assessment

    The International Association for Impact Assessment has defined environmental assessment (or environmental impact assessment) as “. . . the process of identifying the... More »

  • World Environment Day: 5 June 2012 Featured Article World Environment Day: 5 June 2012 World Environment Day: 5 June 2012

    World Environment Day (WED) is an annual event that is aimed at being the biggest and most widely celebrated global day for positive environmental action. World Environment... More »

  • National Ocean Policy Action Plan Featured News Article National Ocean Policy Action Plan National Ocean Policy Action Plan

    National Ocean Policy Action Plan draft requests public comments on actions Federal agencies will take to improve the health of oceans, coasts, and the Great Lakes.... More »

Recently Updated
National Forest System (NFS) Roadless Area Initiatives Last Updated on 2014-07-01 15:36:04 Roadless areas in the U.S.National Forest System (NFS) have received special attention for decades. Many want to protect their relatively pristine condition; others want to use the areas in more developed ways. Two different roadless area policies have been offered in the last decade. On January 12, 2001, the Clinton Administration’s roadless area policy established a nationwide approach to managing roadless areas in the National Forest System to protect their pristine conditions. The Nationwide Rule, as it will be called in this report, generally prohibited road construction and reconstruction and timber harvesting in 58.5 million acres of inventoried roadless areas, with significant exceptions. The Bush Administration initially postponed the effective date of the Nationwide Rule, then issued its own rule that allowed states to plan how roadless areas were managed. It issued a... More »
Asian Carp and the Great Lakes Region Last Updated on 2014-06-20 13:48:30 Alien species of Asian carp are a significant ongoing adverse ecological threat to the Great Lakes of North America. Chief pathways for the introduction of these species has been from the waterways of the city of Chicago, Illinois. The U.S. Congress and federal regulatory agencies are investigating protocols to reduce alien species influxes from Chicago waterways into the Great Lakes, whose fishery value is approximately seven billion dollars per annum. The city of Chicago has resisted environmental protection initiatives, on the grounds that the city's commercial interests may be harmed. Four species of non-indigenous Asian carp are expanding their range in U.S. waterways, resulting in a variety of concerns and problems. Three species—bighead, silver, and black carp—are of particular note, based on the perceived degree of environmental concern. Current controversy... More »
United States Fish and Wildlife Service Last Updated on 2014-06-13 16:14:56 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS or FWS) is a federal bureau within the Department of the Interior. FWS implements and enforces numerous federal environmental laws in order to "conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people [1]." FWS serves a variety of functions to fulfill its overall responsibilities. The Service monitors and manages endangered species as well as migratory birds, lists endangered species under the Endangered Species Act, restores wildlife habitats and commercial fisheries, manages the National Wildlife Refuge System, exacts revenue through the Wildlife and Sport Fish Recreation Program [2], oversees the distribution of conservation funds to the states, and participates in international conservation efforts. The current director of FWS is Rowan W. Gould, who... More »
Eelgrass legal protection Last Updated on 2014-06-12 17:28:44 Eelgrass (Zostera marina) provides a variety of essential ecosystem services in coastal areas, including habitat for shellfish and finfish, food chain production, and sediment stabilization.  In recognition of the services provided by eelgrass beds, there are a number of federal and state environmental laws, programs, and policies for their protection and restoration.  In addition, multiple agencies, federal and state, along with institutions from coastal communities as well as private groups, engage directly in the restoration of eelgrass beds. In addition to the legal measures specifically intended to protect eelgrass that are described in this article, sustaining the health of eelgrasses requires a holistic approach that includes restoring lost eelgrass beds as well as related coastal habitats such as salt marshes and shellfish beds, reducing physical impacts on existing... More »
Warranted but Precluded: What That Means Under the Endangered Species Act Last Updated on 2014-06-12 17:21:39 Summary On March 5, 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced that the sage grouse (sometimes called the greater sage grouse) was facing risks to its population such that a listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) was warranted. However, in that same determination, FWS found that the sage grouse listing was precluded because listing other species was a priority. The agency made the same warranted but precluded determination regarding a distinct population segment of the sage grouse, the Mono Basin sage grouse (sometimes referred to as the Bi-State population). In a subsequent determination, FWS found that protection of the Gunnison sage grouse (a different species from the greater sage grouse) was warranted but precluded as well. This report analyzes the process behind a warranted but precluded determination under the ESA. It also discusses what impact a warranted... More »