Localism's Ecology: Protecting and Restoring Habitat in the Suburban Nation

Colburn, Jamison E.
November 2006
Ecology Law Quarterly;2006, Vol. 33 Issue 4, p945
Academic Journal
Conservation activists and scientists agree that loss and alteration of habitat are the leading threats to biodiversity in America. Suburbs and exurbs, though, are only beginning to acknowledge that they are a problem in the struggle to stem the tide of "sprawl" and other economic processes producing ecosystem-wide habitat degradation today. Recently, academics and activists have begun to reconsider local governments in America as viable solutions to this problem. But most of this dialogue is based upon a mistaken conception of local governance. Much of the legal scholarship on local environmentalism has "ignored the reality of our localism" and its role in creating the ever-expanding built landscape in America. This article argues that this lack of realism in the current debate about local environmental law renders the debate blind not only to the vices of local governments and some of their sham conservation measures, but also to their counterintuitive virtues and possibilities for real conservation progress. Although local government's deep connection to private property entrepreneurialism is what has made it so practically powerful in resisting many state and federal environmental initiatives, it may well be this dimension of our localism that renders it uniquely fit to the tasks of real habitat protection and restoration in the twenty-first century.


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