To protect federal lands, the burden of proof is on conservationists. It should be on extractors.
Alexander Lee is assistant professor of philosophy at Alaska Pacific University and secretary of the International Society for Environmental Ethics. Benjamin Hale is associate professor of philosophy and environmental studies at the University of Colorado Boulder. Alex Hamilton is a graduate student in the environmental studies program and law school at the University of Colorado Boulder.
Pro-development politicians have, in the past year, sought to open up Arctic oil reserves, expand oil leasing in the Gulf of Mexico, build long-sought pipelines, and grant access to old growth timber resources. Each time, the burden falls upon conservationists to justify why industry should not log, dam, drill, mine, or harvest, rather than on developers to demonstrate why they should. This is backward.
The problem starts with public lands leasing: Suppose, for instance, that an oil company intends to drill on a piece of public land. So long as the area is not federally protected, as is the case with national parks, for example, and is offered for leasing by federal land managers (often at the prompting of industry), then the oil company simply need... Read more