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Uniting the Environment and the Law

Uniting the Environment and the Law

By Tara Roberts

Science and law mix at the University of Idaho College of Law, where students pursuing emphases in natural resources and environmental law benefit from faculty members in their program who have national and international experience in these fields.

Among this expert faculty are Dale Goble, who researches the Endangered Species Act, and Barbara Cosens, who works on water policy.

Goble has worked at U-Idaho for more than 30 years, and from 2001 to 2008 led an interdisciplinary team in reviewing the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in its 30th year.

The ESA’s implementation and focus have evolved since Congress passed it in 1973, Goble says. Its drafters envisioned a linear process: A species would be listed, conservation actions would be implemented, the population would grow and the species would be delisted. In practice, however, most species require continuing management to maintain a healthy population.

“The drafters of the Endangered Species Act didn’t know much about extinction,” Goble says. “The act has served as a catalyst that increased the amount of science on extinction significantly.”

Goble and his co-researchers are organizing two new gatherings to review the ESA. The first – to be held in Coeur d’Alene in late October – is intended to be broad and will consider how the best current science can be used to reshape the act’s administration. The second meeting – to be held in Washington, D.C. – will focus on recovery. It's based on both theoretical and on-the-ground work that emphasizes creating conservation management alliances that allow a species to be delisted.

Cosens focuses on another aspect of environmental law: water resource management. She is part of the Universities Consortium on Columbia River Governance, a group of researchers from Pacific Northwest universities which facilitates a dialogue among cross-border interests as the U.S. and Canada review the Columbia River Treaty.

The consortium also connects university research to the review effort and uses curriculum and research to engage students in this major water policy process. A provision of the 50-year-old treaty regarding flood control expires in 2024, opening interest in considering all aspects of this important water- management agreement.

Each member of the consortium has experience facilitating conversations in conflict situations or situations where people seek change, Cosens says. Her experience primarily is in working with American Indian tribes and states.

The consortium will not form an agenda for changing the Columbia River Treaty, but rather will focus on helping the United States, Canada and other stakeholders achieve their goals.

“Empowering the basin to seek its own solutions is the outcome that we strive for,” she says.

Inspired Discoveries 2014

University of Idaho’s Annual Research Report More