83rd Annual

Monday, 10 February 2003: 10:45 AM
The Uneasy Relationship between Science and Law: Protecting Endangered Species
Denise Fort, University of New Mexico, School of Law, Albuquerque, NM
The search for scientific knowledge and the needs of a legal system for certainty often collide. How can the legal system better integrate science? This question will be explored in the context of a raging dispute over the protection of an endangered species on the Rio Grande.

The national mandate to protect endangered species requires a scientific understanding of what a species requires to exist. This knowledge is almost always based on insufficient data and often evolves under conditions of continuing experimentation. The protection of aquatic species has led to dramatic confrontations between irrigators and environmentalists. Scientific uncertainty is often at the center of these confrontations, as scientists are asked to provide knowledge that is used to make water management decisions. Science has become the contested arena, leaving scientists bruised by their treatment in the legal and policy arena. This paper will consider the relationship of law and science in the protection of endangered species and ask how it can be improved.

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