Utah Environmental Law Review, Vol 27, No 2 (2007)

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BREAKING FAITH WITH NATURE: THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION AND PUBLIC LAND POLICY

Robert Keiter

Abstract


The 1990s saw the emergence of ecological sustainability as a new public land management policy along with the growth of a nascent collaborative conservation movement. The author chronicled these developments in Keeping Faith with Nature, arguing that the merger of these two concepts not only represented the next logical step in the evolution of federal conservation policy, but also squared with broader political, social, and economic trends. Since then, the Bush Administration assumed office and public land policy has shifted radically with new priorities and procedures being impressed on the responsible agencies. These new policies—best described as the 3 Ds—have promoted de- legalization, development, and devolution at the expense of environmental values. Although these policy changes, particularly the emphasis on energy development, have had undeniable on the ground impacts, the fundamental legal structure governing the public lands has not been altered, nor have the scientific or socio­economic assumptions underlying the ecological management movement been challenged. Moreover, the federal courts have enjoined key Bush administration initiatives, blocking several of its efforts to rewrite federal natural resources policy. Over the long haul, the opportunity still exists to institutionalize ecological sustainability and collaborative conservation as the new resource management polestar. The Bush administration, in the end, may prove no more than a troublesome aberration on the longer journey toward a more ecologically rational public land policy

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