The Legal Status of Arctic Sea Ice in the United States and Canada
Betsy B. Baker
Vermont Law School; University of Washington School of Law
Vermont Law School
March 30, 2012
35 (1) Polar Geography 2012 (1-19)
Vermont Law School Research Paper No. 08-13
The treatment of sea ice in US and Canadian law has failed adequately to allocate and manage demands on Arctic sea ice among competing uses. Decision makers have generally categorized sea ice as either land or water, a binary approach that ignores its unique characteristics and the services it provides to many different users. Agency action and related litigation in the USA demonstrate sea ice user conflicts and highlight the tendency of US law to protect only one type of user at a time. In Canada, two recent Inuit Land Claims Agreement create zones that encompass sea ice. Yet both systems are beginning to acknowledge sea ice as a component of larger systems and as a resource with multiple uses and users. Both countries have the seeds of mechanisms in place to allow multiple users of sea ice to provide input on planning decisions affecting sea ice. While much work lies ahead, and none of these steps on its own clarifies the legal status of sea ice, combined they provide a modest foundation for beginning to better balance competing uses of sea ice in a warming Arctic.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 21
Keywords: Arctic, sea ice, ecosystem services, Alaska, Inuit, Inuvialuit, Nunavut, Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, Land Claims Agreements, United States, Canada, Environmental Law
Date posted: December 3, 2012 ; Last revised: February 6, 2013
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