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Green Peace? Protecting Our National Treasures While Providing for Our National Security

73 Pages Posted: 19 Dec 2008  

Marcilynn A. Burke

University of Houston Law Center

Date Written: May 1, 2008


In the wake of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the Department of Defense ("DoD") convinced Congress that compliance with environmental and natural resource laws hampered the Armed Forces' readiness for combat by limiting use of its training ranges. This Article evaluates whether Congress's post-9/11 exemptions to three important natural resource laws are inefficient, unjust, and/or unwise by examining the effects these laws have had on national security and their real impacts on the natural world. The significance of these exemptions is reflected by the magnitude of the military's land holdings -- over 32 million acres providing habitat for 300 species listed under the Endangered Species Act. Given the potential impacts, DoD has not demonstrated that the exemptions are necessary or appropriate under the current circumstances, and, in fact, evidence suggests they have been harmful. Application of the precautionary principle exhorts that decisionmakers should protect these resources even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established. Abandoning protection of the country's natural resources, treasures that make this country worth defending, in the name of national security deserves greater thought and study, particularly given the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the Navy sonar case and the Marine Corps' request to expand its bombing and training range in the Mojave Desert.

Keywords: natural resources, exemptions, environmental, defense, military, readiness, migratory bird, endangered species, marine mammal, navy, sonar, encroachment, RRPI

JEL Classification: K32, K23, K10, Q2, Q24, Q25, Q28

Suggested Citation

Burke, Marcilynn A., Green Peace? Protecting Our National Treasures While Providing for Our National Security (May 1, 2008). William & Mary Environmental Law and Policy Review, Vol. 32, p. 803, 2008. Available at SSRN:

Marcilynn Burke (Contact Author)

University of Houston Law Center ( email )

4604 Calhoun Road
Houston, TX 77204-6060
United States

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