The Conservation Constitution
The Conservation Movement and Constitutional Change, 1870–1930
Kimberly K. Smith
Winner: Charles A. Weyerhaeuser Award
Over the course of the twentieth century, the United States emerged as a global leader in conservation policy—negotiating the first international conservation treaties, pioneering the idea of the national park, and leading the world in creating a modern environmental regulatory regime. And yet, this is a country famously committed to the ideals of limited government, decentralization, and strong protection of property rights. How these contradictory values have been reconciled, not always successfully, is what Kimberly K. Smith sets out to explain in The Conservation Constitution—a book that brings to light the roots of contemporary constitutional conflict over environmental policy.
“This superb book explains how understandings of the US Constitution evolved to support federal conservation efforts from the civil War through the 1920s. This book will be invaluable for those interested in environmental history and policy and public law. Essential.”
“The Conservation Constitution provides the first in-depth account of the constitutional developments surrounding conservation policies during the long Progressive Era. No book until now has focused on the intersection between the conservation policies and the constitutional conflicts of the time. By combining these two themes, Kim Smith skillfully identifies the unique doctrinal strategies that helped establish the constitutionality of conservation, in particular wildlife and forest preservation. The book fills a long-missing piece in US environmental-legal history, and it does so with erudition, originality, and sensitivity to the nuances of evolving legal doctrine.”
—Noga Morag-Levine, professor of law and the George Roumell Faculty Scholar, College of Law, Michigan State University
“Kimberly Smith has written the rare work that will become as vital to students of American political development as to students of environmental policy and law. Her study of the constitutionalization of conservation policy at the turn of the twentieth century fills a vital gap in the literature on American constitutional development while challenging conventional narratives about the weaknesses of the American state and the conservatism of federal judges.”
—Mark Graber, University System of Maryland Regents Professor, University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law
“Professor Smith’s simple but brilliant aim is to unearth the constitutional developments that grounded the twentieth-century conservation regime. The surprising story she tells highlights the generative role of the early twentieth-century courts, usually perceived as hidebound opponents of progress on every front. By reading conservation policy into constitutional history, Smith demands a reconsideration of twentieth-century constitutional development. A must-read for scholars of constitutionalism, environmental politics, and political development.”
—Julie Novkov, author of Racial Union: Law, Intimacy, and the White State in Alabama, 1865–1954
“Kim Smith’s The Conservation Constitution tells the story of how constitutional doctrine has evolved to provide some measure of support for conservation and environmental protection laws. Using extensive legal and archival research, she explains how key government leaders, their lawyers, and others attempted to justify particular legal approaches; how courts have evaluated these approaches; how those justifications changed over time; and what all of this means for current issues such as biodiversity loss and climate change. The book is essential reading for anyone working at the intersection of constitutional law and environmental policy.”
—John C. Dernbach, Commonwealth Professor of Environmental Law and Sustainability, Widener University Commonwealth LawSchool
“Contrary to most popular and many scholarly assumptions, environmental policy did not begin in the 1960s. The constitutional framework for federal environmental authority was forged in the Progressive Era. We have long needed a complete and authoritative account of the conservationist movement’s legal strategies and constitutional accomplishments, and this is that book.”
—Sarah Phillips, author of This Land, This Nation: Conservation, Rural America, and the New DealSee fewer reviews...
In the mid-nineteenth century, most Progressive Era conservation policies would have been considered unconstitutional. Smith traces how, between 1870 and 1930, the conservation movement reshaped constitutional doctrine to its purpose—how, specifically, courts and lawyers worked to expand government authority to manage wildlife, forest and water resources, and pollution. Her work, which highlights a number of important Supreme Court decisions often overlooked in accounts of this period, brings the history of environmental management more fully into the story of the US Constitution. At the same time, illuminating the doctrinal innovation in the Progressives’ efforts, her book reveals the significance of constitutional history to an understanding of the government’s role in environmental management.