Environmental Law Symposium Brings Leaders in Environmental Policy

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On Friday, November 14 th , Duke Law School hosted a symposium on key issues in the Bush Administration's environmental policy. A reception and group discussion followed in the Law School's Burdman lounge. The symposium was co-sponsored by Duke Environmental Law and Policy Forum, the Environmental Law Society, the Nicholas School of the Environment, the Center for Environmental Solutions, directed by Duke Law Professor Jonathan Wiener, the Program in Public Law, directed by Duke Law Professor Christopher Schroeder, Hogan & Hartson LLP, Duke Law Democrats, Duke Law Federalist Society, the Duke Graduate and Professional Student Council and the Duke Law School Office of Student Affairs.

Featured speakers included many major names in environmental law and policy. The morning session featured such distinguished guests as Assistant Secretary of the Department of the Interior Lynn Scarlett, former Clinton Solicitor of the Department of the Interior John Leshy, Florida State University law professor J.B. Ruhl, Deputy Director of the National Park Service Donald Murphy, and Duke University Professor of Conservation Biology Norm Christensen. Featured guests for the afternoon session included Senior Policy Analyst for the Thomas Roe Institute for Economic Policies Charlene Coon and Executive Director of Sustainable Obtainable Solutions Gloria Flora. Also presenting in the afternoon session were former Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division Lois Schiffer and William Perry Pendley, President and Chief Legal Officer for Mountain States Legal Foundation and former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy and Minerals in the Department of the Interior. The symposium divided these speakers into groups of two or three persons, with each participant addressing opposing viewpoints on federal administrative policy. A brief public question and answer session followed each group discussion.

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Former Clinton Solicitor of the Department of the Interior John Leshy speaks at the podium, as Duke Law Professor Christopher Schroeder and Assistant Secretary of the Department of the Interior Lynn Scarlett look on in the opening session of the symposium.

Lynn Scarlett opened the symposium, giving a detailed overview the Bush Administration's policies and defending them as a progressive move towards healthier and more reasonable natural resource management. Scarlett was followed by John Leshy, who vehemently attacked the Bush Administration's natural resource policy as undermining the sound environmental base set down during the Clinton years and cowing to industry pressure. In the discussion that followed, heated words were exchanged, including symposium attendee and staff attorney for Appalachian Voices Scott Gollwitzer referring to Scarlett as "the representative for the Industry." The session was moderated by Professor Christopher Schroeder.

The second session featured a three-speaker panel on Conservation of Biological Resources, moderated by Douglas Wheeler. J.B. Ruhl, an expert on the Endangered Species Act, began with a lecture on developments in Endangered Species law, concluding that there have been few, if any, progressive steps made in endangered species protection since the tenure of Bruce Babbitt as Secretary of the Interior under Clinton. Donald Murphy, Deputy Director of the Park Service, took the discussion in a different direction with a detailed speech on the interrelation between biology and ethics from an evolutionary perspective, then applied this to the Park Service. Professor Norm Christenson finished the section by discussing Bush Administration policies on implementing the National Forest Management Act.

After a one-hour break for lunch, attendees returned to hear the opposing views of Charlene Coon, policy analyst for a major Washington think-tank, and Gloria Flora, a former high-ranked Forest Service official, on Forest and Wilderness management. Dr. Kathryn Saterson moderated. Coon's speech focused on the Healthy Forest Initiative pushed by the Administration, highlighting its strengths and the dangers of a no-interference policy towards forest management. Flora immediately countered upon reaching the podium, stating, "I have never seen the hands-off policy she's talking about." Flora went on to explain forest management from the perspective of a Forest Service insider, taking the discussion away from fire suppression and into a support for maintaining the Roadless Rule enacted by President Clinton and left undefended by the Bush Administration. A lively question-and-answer period followed.

The final session of the day featured Lois Schiffer and Perry Pendley, and was moderated by Professor Jonathan Wiener. With the emphasis being statutory developments, Schiffer focused entirely on the applications of the National Environmental Policy Act in international situations, explaining this emerging area of law and its potential future evolution. Pendley looked instead to domestic issues, criticizing the Bush Administration for failing to properly emphasize local concerns in administering national lands. Pendley liberally sprinkled his talk with examples of individuals harmed by national policies such as the Endangered Species Act. This elicited sharp criticism from Professor Schroeder, who stated that, "these are national lands. To say that we should only listen to the locals when deciding how to use them cannot be right."

The day concluded in the Burdman Lounge, with those speakers who had not already departed engaging in a discussion with each other and symposium attendees on topics such as controlling emissions from power plants and fuel efficiency in vehicles. The debate was moderated by Professor Wiener, with Professor Schroeder also actively facilitating the discussion. A brief reception followed.

This article was written by second-year Duke Law student JP Davis.