Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Islands In The Legal Stream (Final Day)

As the students in Biodiversity Law discussed what they had learned in the class, one student provided this rather eloquent observation:

The US Virgin Islands are very close to being loved to death. It seems that everybody wants their slice of paradise, and it appears the negative environmental costs of development are barely recognized by most of the island's political players and disregarded by real estate developers despite many laws on the books designed to protect the island's environment and biodiversity. Two significant questions repeatedly surface: 1) Is the federal government legally required to exercise significantly more land use control in the Virgin Islands than it has at present to protect endangered species? And, 2) Given the Virgin Islands dependence on tourism, which is arguably tied closely to its biodiversity (particularly in the form of charismatic megafauna like the green sea turtle), will that industry at some point recognize the importance of protecting the island's ecosystems and help fund preservation of important natural areas and enforcement of the island's biodiversity laws? In the words of one environmental writer "God Bless America. Let's save some of it." And on a broader level, God Bless the World, let's save some of it for its ecosystem services and because seeing a three-foot long remora attached to the back of a green sea turtle is pretty darn cool.

The class and I had a wonderful experience studying biodiversity law with the Virgin Islands acting as a natural laboratory for testing legal theory and hypothetical fact patterns against the real world. We are all very grateful to the many wonderful citizens, environmentalists, business people, scientists, policymakers, attorneys, and politicians who met with us, taught us, and helped us in the Virgin Islands. As a class, we now hope to repay their kindness by producing and publishing the first critical appraisal of biodiversity law in the Virgin Islands.


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