Dynamic Environmentalism & Adaptive Management: Legal Obstacles and Opportunities


Most of today’s environmental laws and programs are based upon outmoded assumptions about the relative stability of natural systems when free of human interference. Scientists have understood for decades that ecosystems are anything but stable. To the contrary, ecosystems are incredibly dynamic and change over time due to both internal and external forces. Accounting for dynamic nature may require revisiting conventional notions of environmental protection and the underpinnings of environmental law and management. This presents an enormous challenge. Conventional approaches to environmental management may be unable to heed dynamic environmentalism’s call so long as they are confined by contemporary notions of fair administrative process, whether such constraints are the product of norms, statutes or even the Constitution. The challenge of recognizing dynamic nature as such implicates the very foundations of contemporary environmental law and policy. This paper was prepared for an LEC-PERC Research Roundtable on Dynamic Environmentalism: Ecology, Economics, and Law.


Environmental protection, environment, adaptive management, ecosystem management, dynamic environmentalism

Publication Date


Document Type


Place of Original Publication

Journal of Law, Economics and Policy

Publication Information

11 Journal of Law, Economics and Policy 133 (2015)

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COinS Jonathan H. Adler Faculty Bio