Recreation Wars for Our Natural Resources

By Laitos, Jan G.; Reiss, Rachael B. | Environmental Law, Fall 2004 | Go to article overview

Recreation Wars for Our Natural Resources


Laitos, Jan G., Reiss, Rachael B., Environmental Law


I. INTRODUCTION
II. THE THREE ERAS OF NATURAL RESOURCES MANAGEMENT
    A. Era I: Commodity Development
    B. Era II: Environmental Protection
    C. A New Era of Conflicts: Preservationists, Recreationists, and
       More Recreationists
       1. Three Competing Use Preferences
       2. The Central Conflict: Low impact v. High Impact
          Recreationists
       3. Strange Bedfellows
III. GOVERNMENTAL AND JUDICIAL RESPONSES TO ERA III CONFLICTS: THE
     MULTIPLE-USE-DOMINANT-USE DEBATE
     A. Statutory Solutions
          1. Agency Rule: Nonsegregated or Segregated Multiple Use?
          2. Court Rule: Resolving Disputes Between the Three
             Recreation Groups
             a. Group III v. Group I--Motorized v. Preservation and Low
                Impact, Nonmotorized
             b. Group III v. Group II--Motorized v. High Impact,
                Nonmotorized
             c. Group I v. Group II--Low Impact, Nonmotorized v. High
                Impact, Nonmotorized
             d. Structures to Aid Recreation
     B. Common Law Solutions
          1. The Public Nuisance Doctrine
          2. The Public Trust Doctrine
IV. FACTORS CONTRIBUTING TO TIlE EMERGING GROUP I RECREATIONAL,
    DOMINANT-USE PARADIGM
    A. Location
    B. Wildlife
    C. A New Ethic: Preservation, Not Economics
    D. Public Demand
    E. Judicial Override of Politically Driven Decisions
V. CONCLUSION

I. INTRODUCTION

The management of natural resources has gone through several philosophical shifts over the past 150 years. Those changes in management philosophy have paralleled changes in attitudes about natural resources use. Resource extraction gave way to pollution control and restoration, which now compete with preservation and recreation. These use and management trends occurred in three time periods.

Era I (roughly 1862-1964) arose with westward expansion and the passage of the first mining and timber harvesting laws as governments encouraged commodity developers to search for and remove valuable resources. Disputes ensued both among commodity users and between commodity users and the government as these parties attempted to sort out their rights under these new laws. The environmental problems that emerged from Era I influenced Congress to pass an influx of environmental laws, which heralded the start of Era II (roughly 1964-1990s). Era II sought to reconcile extractive commodity demands with popular environmental values, such as preventing the depletion of natural resources, maintaining clean air and water, and preserving landscapes and endangered species. Environmental protection groups and government agencies used these new laws to challenge commodity users. Environmental protection groups also used these new laws to challenge government decisions permitting the extractive use of resources. Although Era II disputes still arise, we are moving into another era--Era III. This new era--the focus of this Article--marks a change in natural resource use from environmental protection to preservation and recreation. In Era III, mineral development, logging, and grazing no longer seem to represent the primary uses of natural resources. Instead, preservation and recreation are becoming the primary use preferences.

Part II of this Article explains the three eras, as well as the statutes, goals, and players characteristic of each. Part II then focuses on Era III and the different types of preservation and recreation use preferences which that have caused the disputes that have emerged. Part III of this Article describes conflicts unique to the new era. In Era III, courts and federal administrative agencies are forced to use Era I and Era II statutes to resolve these conflicts. Statutes enacted to resolve disputes among commodity users or conflicts between environmental advocates and resource developers are being used to sort out disagreements between different types of recreational users.

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