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News Posted on October 10, 2013

Bruce Babbitt Headlines Successful King Hall Endangered Species Act Conference

More than 200 academic experts, policy makers, and environmental law practitioners joined King Hall faculty, students, and staff for "The Endangered Species Act at 40: Examining Its Past and Exploring Its Future" on October 4. The day-long conference, sponsored by the UC Davis School of Law California Environmental Law & Policy Center (CELPC), featured a keynote speech by former Arizona Governor and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt and a series of panel discussions featuring prominent government policymakers, environmental lawyers, wildlife scientists, and academics.

Following welcoming remarks from Dean Kevin R. Johnson and an introduction by Professor of Environmental Practice Richard Frank, Director of CELPC, former Secretary of the Interior Babbitt delivered a keynote address he acknowledged would be controversial.  He talked about how "offshore-inland" technologies have enabled oil and natural gas extraction to occur with minimal impact in some areas of the Amazon Basin, and called upon federal agencies to use the Endangered Species Act to require the use of such technologies to prevent the destruction of habitat by the oil and gas industry.  The Obama administration should use the Endangered Species Act to protect the potentially endangered greater sage grouse and its habitat, which includes some 70 million acres of public land, by requiring the use of offshore-inland technology.

"Some may say it's already too late to put habitat planning back on track," said Babbitt. "Others may counsel that in this time of divided government and the seeming ascendency of anti-environmental politicians, the best course is to retreat, even on public lands, by just scaling down to the lowest common denominator of consensus, whether or not that consensus meets legal requirements of the Act.... To them I would say that I believe that history informs us time and time again that the best way to protect an environmental law is to use it vigorously, especially on public lands that belong to all of us, the American people."

Panel discussion topics included "Four Decades of the ESA: A Legal and Policy Retrospective," "State and International Perspectives on Wildlife Protection Laws," "Creative Approaches to the ESA: Candidate Conservation Agreements, Habitat Conservation Plans, Safe Harbor Agreements, and More," and "The Future of the ESA: A Conversation with Some Premier ESA Attorneys & Scholars." Panelists included King Hall faculty members such as Professor Frank and Professor Lesley McAllister, as well UC Berkeley School of Law Professor Holly Doremus, formerly a King Hall faculty member.  Panel moderators included King Hall alumni Miles Hogan '12, former CELPC Environmental Law Fellow, and Mary Scoonover '87, Chair of the CELPC Advisory Board and an attorney with Resources Law Group. The conference also included an introductory "ESA 101" session with Professor Albert Lin.

Dean Johnson said thanks were due to the California Environmental Law & Policy Center and staff, the student volunteers, and the Environmental Law Society for organizing the conference, and to Stoel Rives; Remy, Moose, & Manley; Spaletta Law; and the Resources Law Group for financial support.