Can Law Keep Up with Science: Resource Management in a Fast-paced World
Paul Weiland spoke as a member of the panel exploring the topic, "Can Law Keep Up with Science: Resource Management in a Fast-paced World." The panel addressed uncertainty and water management within the existing legal regime in the United States. Society's understanding of the natural world, informed by research, monitoring, and modeling, is fluid. The state of the legal regime is fluid as well. That said, by design the legal regime is not intended to continually evolve in response to changing environmental conditions and changing human understanding of those conditions. A s a result, even as scientific information in the form of data, analyses, and findings from empirical research provides support for pursuing certain resource management actions and/or abandoning others, law and policy may foreclose otherwise sensible options. At the same time, it is almost universally the case that multiple strands of scientific information must be critically assessed and synthesized in order to directly inform resource management. The process by which this should occur in the resource management context is adaptive management. Although the track record of adaptive management is mixed, at best, it is a sound concept that offers a path forward whereby law can keep up with science. Furthermore, in important respects (but with notable exceptions), it is possible to implement adaptive management within the existing legal regime.