In this article, the author argues that ecosystem management is a policy choice masquerading as an inevitability. Ecosystem management is a process that measures, controls and changes ecosystems to produce the most desirable environment in human terms. The article begins with a discussion of two developments from which ecosystem management derives its legitimacy, the theory of nonequilibrium in ecosystems and the extinction of pristine systems: ecosystems exist in a fluid and dynamic state, and there are no ecosystems that are completely unaffected by human impact. Therefore, according to the prevailing view, it is not possible to preserve ecosystems in a natural state. The author questions the logic of that conclusion, arguing that neither nonequilibrium nor the absence of pristine systems dictates that ecosystems must be controlled and deliberately changed. The article's contention is not that natural is preferable, but that it is possible, and that the debate between ecological preservation and environmental utilitarianism can and should occur. If science and law dictate that there are no options but to deliberately change ecosystems, as the managers believe, then the debate has no relevance. Thus, the thesis is not that ecological preservation is a better choice than ecosystem management, but that there is a choice to make.
Recommended CitationBruce Pardy, Changing Nature: The Myth of the Inevitability of Ecosystem Management, 20 Pace Envtl. L. Rev. 675 (2003)
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