Evaluating the landscape
for environmental impact and land-use planning is common practice.
This section should foster your understanding of the material in the text
regarding environmental impact statements, Geographic Information Systems,
mediation in environmental law, problems with the development of international
environmental agreements, land-use planning, preferable adjustments to natural
hazards, population increase and the effects of natural hazards, and the
problems and opportunities of global forecasting.
A CLOSER LOOK: The Florissant
A case reported by
Yannacone, Choen, and Davison in Colorado emphasizes the power
of citizen groups to use the law. The conflict surrounded the use
of 7.3 square kilometers of land near Colorado Springs, a part of the Florissant
Fossil Beds where insect bodies, seeds, leaves, and plants were deposited
in an ancient lake bed about 30 million years ago. Today the deposits
are remarkably preserved in thin layers of volcanic shale. The fossils
are delicate and, unless protected, tend to disintegrate when exposed.
Many people consider the fossils unique and irreplaceable.
While the U. S. Congress
was considering a bill to establish a Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument,
a land development company that had contracted to purchase and develop recreational
home sites on 7.3 square kilometers of the ancient lake bed announced that
it was going to bulldoze a road through a portion of the proposed national
monument site to gain access to the property it wished to develop.
A citizens' group formed to fight the development until the House acted
on the bill.
After first being denied
a temporary restraining order, the conservationists went before an appeals
court and argued that, even though there were was no law protecting the
fossils, they were subject to protection under the Ninth Amendment to the
U.S. Constitution and that, furthermore, because the property had tremendous
public interest, it was also protected by the Trust Doctrine. An analogy
used by the plaintiffs was that if a property owner were to find the Constitution
of the United States buried on the land and wanted to use it to mop the
floor, certainly that person would be restrained. The court eventually
issued a restraining order to halt development; shortly thereafter, the
bill to establish a national monument was passed by Congress and signed
by the president.
The court order prohibiting destruction of
the fossil beds may have deprived the landowner of making the most profitable
use of the property, but it did not prohibit uses consistent with protecting
the fossils. For instance, the property owners are free to develop
the land for tourism or scientific research. Although such use might
not result in the largest possible return on the property owner's investment,
it probably would return a responsible profit.