Not so Helpless: Application of the U.S. Constitution Property Clause to Protect Federal Parklands from External Threats
Posted: 23 Aug 1999
Many conservationists worry that national parklands may be threatened by development activities occurring outside established park boundaries, thereby threatening preservation objectives. Some legal commentators argue for federal legislation creating buffers around sensitive parks. Within these buffers, additional federal regulatory controls would be promulgated to protect park values. Such statutes are both unnecessary and unwise. Currently, the extra-territorial reach of the federal constitution?s property clause enables park managers to address external threats to park integrity. The Property Clause is available, and has been successfully relied upon, to control activities adjacent to, or within the perimeter area of, a federal conservation unit which significantly interferes with the primary purposes for which the federal land is designated. Buffer legislation also poses a number of technical and predictive difficulties that may precipitate numerous legal challenges to management proscriptions under such statutes. Case specific regulatory remedies avoid many of these pitfalls. Reliance upon existing legal mechanisms remains the most effective means for protecting national parks from external threats.
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