Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Citation

41 Environmental Law 407 (2011)


Animal migrations capture the human mind and heart like few other natural phenomena. Migrations provide ecological, psychological (e.g., aesthetic), cultural, and economic benefits. Increasingly, though, migrations are being recognized as threatened phenomena-that is, spectacular aspects of the life history of animal species often involving large numbers of individuals, but which are threatened with impoverishment or demise, even though the species per se may not be in peril. Migration phenomena are themselves worthy of protection, as a category of biodiversity Yet, conserving migratory populations and their migrations is particularly problematic. Migratory animals are especially vulnerable to a variety of threats because they come into contact with multiple ecosystems and jurisdictions, tend to congregate in large numbers in discrete and often vulnerable areas, and require considerable fuel for their long-distance journeys. In addition, migration is essentially a phenomenon of abundance-the benefits and values of migrations depend on an abundance of animals taking part and conserving species' populations before they become rare has always been an uphill battle. This Article presents an idea for a new federal law that reflects the perspective that conserving migratory behaviors and processes as phenomena of value in and of themselves, and not only of value for species persistence, can provide unique and important benefits. Current conservation laws generally serve the species-based conservation perspective and, with a few exceptions, are not designed or implemented to protect benefits of abundant animal migrations. The existing fragmented framework of laws and authorities also is insufficient to protect most migratory populations against a diversity of threats across multiple jurisdictions and broad geographic scales. Our proposed federal law would offer a unified framework, require abundance targets, and authorize a comprehensive set of legal tools, including both carrots and sticks, for conserving a limited set of nationally or regionally "significant" migrations. Such a law would likely improve the current situation for the nation's most notable migratory populations and generally promote the conservation of all migrations as phenomena of abundance.