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It is just not fair: the Endangered Species Act in the United States and Ontario

Andrea Olive, University of Toronto


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The United States and the Canadian province of Ontario have enacted endangered species laws that regulate private land. The rationale for this is that the vast majority of endangered species in the two countries rely on private lands for survival. However, from a landowner perspective the law is deemed unfair. This paper presents analysis from 141 interviews with landowners in three U.S. states and Ontario. In recognition of distributive justice claims, both the U.S. government and the Ontario government have enacted programs aimed at increasing financial incentives for participation and compliance with the law. However, the law is still perceived as unfair. The central argument of this paper is that future amendments and new policies for endangered species should confront two other forms of environmental justice: procedural justice and justice-as-recognition. Landowners in both countries expressed not only concerns about compensation, but also a deep desire to be included in the protection and recovery process, as well as to be recognized by government and society as good stewards of the land. The paper concludes by stating that future policy amendments need to address justice-as-recognition if endangered species conservation on private lands is to be considered fair by landowners.

Key words

conservation; Endangered Species Act; environmental justice; justice-as-recognition; landowners; private property; procedural justice

Copyright © 2016 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087