Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Islands In The Legal Stream (Day 5)

Today was a very exciting one. After lecture, which covered economics, sustainability (including an exploration of the IPAT formula and its implications), the origins, history, and sources of biodiversity law, the class was invited to visit Senator Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg at his home. With a panoramic view of rough Atlantic breakers swatting the North coast of Saint Thomas, Senator Donastorg spent the afternoon regaling the class with the ins and outs, and ups and downs, of biodiversity law on the Virgin Islands. He discussed trends in development of previously natural areas, the regulatory framework that implements biodiversity law on the Virgin islands, the sometimes uneasy interaction of Federal and Territorial statutes and regulations, and the details of how biodiversity issues make the transition from suggestions and ideas to draft legislations to legally effective statutes to enforced regulations. As always, Senator Donastorg was gracious, cogent, forthright, and optimistic about what politics and the law could accomplish if given the opportunity by strong and brave leadership. As one of my students stated

Meeting with Senator Donastorg was extremely interesting. It was clear that he is aware of biodiversity issues in the Virgin Islands, and has tried to make them a legislative priority. It was also clear how difficult it is to push such legislation forward when there are so many other social and economic issues facing the islands. Finding a balance between promoting all of these issues seems to be essential in successfully preserving biodiversity.

The United States Virgin Islands have clearly not yet found the appropriate balance, and their abundant and unique biodiversity is tipping dangerously towards wholesale liquidation. The class was inspired by Senator Donastorg's efforts to preserve and sustainably use the Virgin Islands' biodiversity, and hope his future in the Virgin Islands is bright.


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