Conservation through Environmental Law

Administrative law can be traced from as back as 1875 (Breyer, et al, 2009). This can be likened to the fact that as institutions of governance burgeoned, there arose the need for structures to govern public administration, maintain economy and contain the ever-growing bureaucracy. Therefore, Administrative law is an arm of law that specifically deals with bodies of governance. Administrative law can therefore, be considered to be derived from both public law and civil law. The enforcement of these laws rests mainly on the executive branch, although other arms of government also regulate and enforce these laws. The law commonly tries to regulate issues concerning taxes, immigration, agriculture, social welfare, trade, pollution and other issues of public concern. Administrative law can be said to have three legal dimensions,

  1. Rulemaking: This is the process, which the executive arm of government and agencies come up with regulations. In it, legislation passed forms the policy framework that agencies use to promulgate laws.
  2. Adjudication: This is the process through which an arbiter makes a ruling subject to matters concerning the opposing parties involved; this is done after the judge makes considerations on the evidence adduced before the court, arguments set forth and legal thinking.
  3. Enforcement: This can also be referred to as enactment. It is the process through which legislation comes to force or it is the process of enforcing the Act. However, this is not the same as when the bill becomes an Act.

Environmental degradation is a major issue that every nation of the world has to counter. The remedy to this only lies in government agencies pro-actively engaging in serious environmental conservation efforts. In the United States of America for example, environmental legislations date back to 1899 with the passage of Rivers and Harbors act (Malone, 2007). Environment plays a critical role in economic development and thus is commonly used as an indicator of economic development. It is prudent therefore, that administrations of the day leave a legacy of eco-friendly legal structures. Taking the United States of America as a case study, the notable environmental legislations are 1970-1980 and thus this period was named as the Environmental decade. During this period, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that the bill sought to form the Council on Environmental quality that supervised environmental effects of Federal undertakings or actions, was signed by President Nixon. In the same year, the president formed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that was to harmonize environmental efforts of other agencies into one entity.

This paper seeks to address conservation efforts of the environment, particularly on endangered species and specifically on fish and marine. It starts by tracing the start of a conservation effort of endangered species. In December 28, 1973, the much-awaited Endangered Species Act of 1973 was signed by President Nixon into law. It was instrumented to protect the near endangered species from extinction occasioned by rapid economic growth. This Act was a culmination of President Nixon’s decision to have a law whose conservation approach was a fruitful team, comprising of lawyers and environmentalists who were delegated the enormous task of writing the bill. The bill was lauded as a landmark, and it lived to the billing of the changing environmental conservation landscape. In 1982, the Endangered Species Act of 1982 was signed and its main aim was to conserve species and preserve their ecosystem (Liebesman, et al, 2003).

Of late, there have been hues and cries of fish and marine conservation. In 2008, polar bears were listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (Aars, et, al 2006). Ironically turtles continue to sink in more misery as occasioned by the oil spill, although polar bears in Alaska have been protected under Section 101 a (5) (A), which tries to enhance mitigation measures against oil and gas spill. Conservation efforts of the polar bear dates back to 1972 when the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 (MMPA) sought to illegalize the hunting of polar bears as a sport as it led to a sharp decline of the polar bear population. Also under the Act under Section 102 (b) and 101(a) (3) (B), polar bears were cited as “depleted”. Therefore, imports were to be granted under the Act if they were to enhance their population or for research. It therefore meant under section 104(c) (5) that, granting of permission to import sport hunted trophies was not allowed or available. There has been an attempt to outlaw trading of polar bear anatomies such as gall bile or bladder. It is enshrined in the Marine Mammal Protection Act, prohibitions are outlined in Section 502 (a) (2) (3) (4), which prohibits importation, exportation or barter system of polar bear and polar bear anatomy. The Marine Mammal Protection Act is administered by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service through its Director. The management of the act is under Section 503 (a). Penalties are also enshrined in the Marine Mammal Protection Act with Section 105 (a)(1) stipulating that the violator of the provisions is liable to not more than $10,000 fine and the penalties continue to Section 105 (a)(2)(b). Lastly, enforcement of the title falls in Section 107.

Another endangered species of the fish and marine species is the sea turtle (Feldhamer, 2003). Turtles in the United States of America are conserved under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. The landmark protection effort was in 1977 when a Memorandum of Understanding (M.O.U) was signed between the United States Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to oversee the Act with regard to the marine turtles. Responsibilities were shared between the two bodies with the United States Fish and Wildlife Services leading conservation efforts on the beaches, while the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was to conserve sea turtles in the marine ecosystem. It is therefore apparent that administrative law played a pivotal role and continues to play the role of conservation, through environmental legislations, as it is notable in the polar bear and sea turtle cases.



Aars, J., Lunn, N.J. & Derocher, A.E.. (2006). Polar Bears: Proceedings of the 14th Working Meeting of the IUCN/SSC Polar Bear Specialist Group, 20-24 June, Seattle, Washington, USA. Cambridge, UK: IUCN.

Breyer, S.G, Stewart, R.B, Sunstein, C.R. (2009). Administrative Law and Regulatory Policy. Frederick, MD: Aspen Publishers Online.

Feldhamer, G.A., Thompson, B.C. & Chapman, J.A. (2003). Wild Mammals of North America- Biology, Management, and Conservation. Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press.

Liebesman, L.R, Petersen, R. (2003).Endangered Species Deskbook. Washington, DC: Environmental Law Institute.

Malone, L.A. (2007). Environmental Law. Frederick, MD: Aspen Publishers Online.


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