Wednesday, January 18, 2012

New Editors!

Starting next week, a new set of editors will be joining this blog. Their work spans a broad range of environmental law topics, and we think you'll enjoy reading what they have to say. Here's a quick introduction:

Deepa Badrinarayana is an associate professor at Chapman Law School, where she teaches courses in international and environmental law. She writes about international and Indian environmental law, with a focus on climate change. Deepa is also a consultant to the United Nations Global Compact on issues of corporate voluntarism and regulations. Before coming to the United States, Professor Badrinarayana was a Research Officer for a Government of India-World Bank Environmental Capacity-Building Project, at the National Law School of India University. In addition to research and advocacy, she also trained government officials and legal professionals in environmental law. She is also a Member of the World Conservation Union, Committee on Environmental Law.

Maxine Burkett is an Associate Professor of Law at the William S. Richardson School of Law, University of Hawai‘i and serves as the inaugural Director of the Center for Island Climate Adaptation and Policy (ICAP), at the University of Hawai‘i Sea Grant College Program. Professor Burkett’s courses include Climate Change Law and Policy, Torts, Environmental Law, Race and American Law, and International Development. She has written in the area of Race, Reparations, and Environmental Justice. Currently, her work focuses on "Climate Justice," writing on the disparate impact of climate change on vulnerable communities, in the United States and globally. As the Director of ICAP, she leads projects to address climate change law, policy, and planning for island communities in Hawai‘i, the Pacific region, and beyond. Professor Burkett is from the island of Jamaica, and now she and her husband raise their two young children on the island of O‘ahu, Hawai‘i.

Keith Hirokawa is an associate professor at Albany Law School. He teaches property, land use, and environmental law courses (one of which we've previously covered here), and he writes on subjects at the intersection of land use and environmental law, with particular attention to ecosystem services and issues of urban sustainability. In his spare time, he plays in the snow with his two sons.

Emily Hammond Meazell’s scholarly work focuses on issues of scientific uncertainty and legitimacy, especially in administrative, environmental, and energy law. A former civil engineer, she practiced in the environmental and water resources fields before attending law school. She is currently Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the University of Oklahoma College of Law, where she teaches administrative law, energy law, torts, and risk, public policy and law. She will be joining the faculty at Wake Forest University School of Law in the summer of 2012.

Tim Mulvaney is an Associate Professor of Law at Texas Wesleyan University School of Law in Fort Worth, TX. Prior to entering academia, he served in the Attorney General’s Office of his home state of New Jersey, where he represented the state’s Department of Environmental Protection and its then-Commissioner (and current EPA Administrator) Lisa Jackson. Tim’s most recent scholarship focuses on the constitutional takings barriers that constrain the government’s ability to attach conditions to development permits in an effort to mitigate local environmental and infrastructural impacts. He teaches courses in environmental, natural resources, land use, and property law, as well as a seminar entitled “Constitutional Issues in Environmental Law.”

Deepa, Maxine, Keith, Emily, and Tim all will be joining as blog editors, which means they'll be posting every other week. Additionally, Erin Ryan will be joining us as a contributing editor, and will be posting on a more occasional basis. Here's a short version of her bio:

Professor Erin Ryan teaches natural resources and environmental law, property and land use law, negotiation, and federalism. She began her teaching career at UC-Hastings College of the Law and then joined the full-time faculty at William & Mary. In 2011, she was awarded a Fulbright to study environmental governance in China, where she is currently teaching at Ocean University and lecturing about environmental law at Chinese universities nationwide. In 2011, she also joined the faculty at Lewis & Clark Law School, where she will begin teaching upon her return from China in 2012. Prior to law school, Ryan served as a U.S. Forest Service ranger on the Mono Lake District of the Inyo National Forest (the Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area), east of Yosemite National Park. She graduated from Harvard College with a degree in East Asian Languages and Civilizations and received a Master’s degree in Ethnomusicology from Wesleyan University. In her spare time, she collects moments with her three year-old son, Dylan.

Brigham Daniels and Hannah Wiseman also will be switching to contributing editor status, while Lincoln Daniels, Blake Hudson, Lesley McAllister, Hari Osofsky, Dave Owen will remain as editors.

We hope you enjoy the new voices.

- The Editors

January 18, 2012 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Putting the "Natural" Ecosystem Back in the South


The Natural Resources Law & Policy book that I use challenges the class to consider "what is natural?" before embarking on the course. Is it "natural" to allow the Florida Panther population to genetically bottleneck and die out, or is it "natural" for humans to intervene and introduce related subspecies of western mountain lions into the Florida population to raise genetic diversity and save some semblance of the species? Is it "natural" to put handrails in the mountains to allow people to access and experience nature directly, or is it "natural" to leave human constructs out of nature even if few can visit those locations? I could go on and on. But I do like to relay to my students one of my personal experiences with this question. The forestland I grew up on in south Alabama is about 75% monoculture pine and 25% beautiful hardwood. I always loved the hardwood portion of the property, because it seemed to me to be so much more diverse - with a wide array of tree and plant species, a distinct "forest" smell, more contrasting colors, etc. You can see the transition from our hardwood to our pine portion of land in this picture:

Panoramic View of Hardwood-Pine

I would hear stories from my mother about how the entire acreage once looked like the hardwood portion, until the forest companies my grandfather leased the land to came in and clearcut the hardwood to plant monoculture pine. To me the hardwood portion was "natural," and man had replaced it with a quite unnatural, boring (to me at the time) "farm" of trees. Only later did I learn that my conception of what was "natural" for a southeastern forest was quite wrong.

Only when man began suppressing fire on large scales did the hardwoods creep out of the watersheds, soggy bottoms, and hollows and into the upland areas. Indeed, nearly the entire southeast historically looked far more like the pine forest in the right portion of the image above, as it was almost entirely covered by the longleaf pine ecosystem (see image at the top of the post). Here is a prototypical longleaf stand: 

Longleaf habitat

The longleaf ecosystem has been reduced by 97% due to urbanization and development as well as forestry practices. Even so, consider these facts (found here):

  • The ecosystem contains 29 threatened and endangered species (including the gopher tortoise and the red-cockaded woodpecker).
  • Almost 900 plant species are found only in longleaf pine forests.
  • There are as many as 40 to 50 different plant species in one square meter of longleaf forest.
  • 170 of the 290 reptile and amphibian species found in the Southeast live in the longleaf ecosystem.

Given the importance of the ecosystem, the Conservation Fund joined more than 20 nonprofits and government agencies to embark on "America's Longleaf Initiative," which aims to triple the amount of longleaf pine ecosystem in its historic range from 3.4 to 8 million acres. We often focus on endangered and threatened species, but I think we tend to forget that entire ecosystems are imperiled (ecosystems that themselves are home to numerous endangered and threatened species). With only 3% of the longleaf pine ecosystem left, I can only hope that these restoration efforts can succeed in putting the "natural" ecosystem back in the South - I now find it quite beautiful.

- Blake Hudson

January 16, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)