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Copyright (c) 1997 Cornell Law Review
Cornell Law Review


November, 1997

83 Cornell L. Rev. 1


Bradley C. Karkkainen *


Biodiversity conservation has emerged recently as a leading goal of scientists, environmentalists, and policymakers, both globally 1 and in the United States. 2 In the popular literature, biodiversity conservation 3 is closely associated with halting the destruction of tropical rainforests, especially in Amazonia. 4 But if biodiversity is worth conserving, 5 then we should consider the full range of biodiversity, including North American species, ecosystems, and gene pools, as candidates for protection. 6 Contrary to popular impression, the United States is actually quite rich in biodiversity, with relatively high levels of species richness and endemism spread over a diverse array of ecosystem types and climatic conditions. 7 But biodiversity loss is at an advanced stage in this country, as it is throughout the temperate zone. 8 In all regions of the United States (with the possible exception of Alaska where human disturbance of natural systems has been more limited), entire ecosystems are nearing extinction 9 and in some cases are being destroyed at a faster rate than the Amazonian rain forest. 10 Consequently, scientists and environmentalists have urged a refocusing of our domestic environmental laws and public lands management policies to place the goal of biodiversity conservation at center stage. 11 The federal bureaucracy has, at least to some extent, heeded these appeals, but for the most part, Congress has not. 12 Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt has identified biodiversity conservation as a central goal of public lands management. 13 Babbitt has stitched together the ...
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