In 2021, Wisconsin’s supreme court rejected the notion that Act 21 alters the DNR’s broad and explicit statutory charge to act as a trustee of the state’s waters, as written into sections 281.11 and 281.12 of the Wisconsin Statutes. The interviews with Water Specialists and their supervisors demonstrate that these mission-orientated staff are ready to protect public rights in water, but that their ability to do so is limited by a lack of sufficient resources and authority. Passionate people in key positions are not enough to protect public rights in the state’s waters; agencies need sufficient staff, time to conduct site visits, and statutory authority to regulate in ways that fulfill trustee obligations
Going forward, both formal regulation and informal mechanisms are needed to create better accountability for large-scale environmental technology solutions. Despite the potential consequences, new technologies hold real promise for improving ecosystem health and environmental management globally. Many potential features could improve governance of these technologies, but it is essential that innovation be allowed to continue without being subject to stifling bureaucratic processes. Improving accountability for emerging technologies should be the cornerstone of new, flexible approaches to evaluate the risks and benefits of emerging technologies in the environment.
Environmental law covers a lot of territory, intersecting with energy law and land use law. The range of topics in the Annual Review is a tribute to the diversity of the field. The contributions to this issue demonstrate that innovative legal analysis can not only advance legal doctrine, but can also identify pathways for improving policy. All of those who contributed to the issue deserve credit for continuing ELQ’s tradition of excellence over the past half-century. Law professors, students, legal historians, and countless other scholars seeking insight into the major developments in environmental, natural resource, and land use law, as well as developments overseas, will benefit from this Annual Review.
The Court’s major questions doctrine is deeply flawed and should be renounced. There are several reasons for this conclusion: the doctrine lacks analytical rigor; it aggrandizes the judiciary at the expense of constitutionally mandated separation of powers principles; it is unnecessary, since existing mechanisms provide more than adequate judicial review of administrative actions; and the doctrine compromises the legitimacy of judicial decision making.