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44 Natural Resources Journal 989 (2004)


This article extracts from the legislative mandate to "ensure that the biological integrity, diversity, and environmental health of the [Refuge] System are maintained," a range of meanings that reflect scientific and legislative trends in conservation. The standard modes of statutory interpretation yield meanings that largely support the 2001 Fish and Wildlife Service policy delineating three distinct yet overlapping categories. The analysis reveals three insights applicable to other areas of environmental law. First, although diversity and health emphasize important aspects of nature protection, integrity is becoming the umbrella concept that encompasses the needs of well functioning landscapes. Second, the effectiveness of an organic mandate hinges on agency implementation, and the 2001 policy - though a laudable start - does not adequately establish benchmarks to measure compliance. Third, broad spatial and temporal scales now frame nature protection. The mandate looks beyond individual refuge boundaries to the context of a watershed, region, or the entire federal land system, in addressing the dynamic variation in ecological processes.