Corridors increase plant species richness at large scales: An immediate dividend from the Scientific Lawyer
The Scientific Lawyer's listing of the latest articles from Science enabled me to post the following item at BioLaw as that forum's article of the week:
Why feature this finding, interesting in its own right though it may be, more prominently than any other developments in science during the past week? Because the federal courts have persistently refused to give full credit to conservation biology in general, and in particular to that discipline's insights into the value of geographic corridors, in disputes involving public lands and biodiversity management. Two cases, which I discuss in Across the Apocalypse on Horseback, deserve special mention.
First, Sierra Club v. Marita, 46 F.3d 606 (7th Cir. 1995) refused to hold the Forest Service accountable for its failure to consider "population dynamics, species turnover, patch size, recolonization problems, fragmentation problems, edge effects, and island biogeography. Instead, the court reasoned, the uncertainty inherent in the application of these concepts excused the Service from applying them in any particular "concrete situation" involving forest management.
Second, Fund for Animals v. Babbitt, 903 F. Supp. 96 (D.D.C. 1995), converted the very complexity of conservation biology into a basis for relieving the government of any obligation to prepare an "exhaustively detailed recovery plan" for grizzly bears. The court thereupon refused to interpret the Endangered Species Act as requiring "linkage zones between ecosystems inhabited by grizzlies" or any other managerial technique.
Whatever its status in the courts a decade ago, conservation biology has continued to build its considerable storehouse of knowledge regarding habitat corridors. The article by Damschen et al. epitomizes the sort of new learning that warrants reconsideration of received legal wisdom regarding this form of adaptive management. That is precisely the sort of value that The Scientific Lawyer should bring to the law. I hope that I -- and the entire online network that I am continuing to build -- will take full advantage of this tool, the better to inform the law through scientific awareness and wisdom.