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Although wild horses are largely considered non-native species in the American West, their majestic beauty has long captivated the minds of the public. In 1971, rapidly diminishing horse populations led to the enactment of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act (WHBA), to protect wild horses from “capture, branding, harassment, or death.” WHBA proved to be so successful that Congress amended it in 1978 to grant the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) greater ability to manage horse populations.
In 2020, the Supreme Court decided Atlantic Richfield v. Christian, a case that asked the Court to reconcile ostensibly competing concerns in the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act: the jurisdictional bar that limits challenges to the Environmental Protection Agency’s ongoing cleanup plans and the savings clause that makes room for state restoration claims which are not available under the Act. The case arose when landowners on a Superfund site in Montana sought restoration damages under Montana state law during an ongoing Environmental Protection Agency- led cleanup.
After seven years of organizing, the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition— made up of the Hopi, Navajo, Uintah and Ouray Ute, Ute Mountain Ute, and Zuni Nations—secured the protection of 1.35 million acres of federal public land within the boundaries of the state of Utah. The land included the twin Bears Ears buttes, which rose to the south above Cedar Mesa, a cultural landscape sacred to these five Native Nations and many others.
This is a story of energy and fish, the federal laws that regulate them, and their past and future as resource industries in the United States. United States federal law has long treated our oceans as an endless bounty of natural resources, ready for human extraction, consumption, and exhaustion. But our oceans have changed and so too must our ocean policy. We face concurrent crises of climate change, resource depletion, and environmental degradation. And with these realities comes a responsibility on the part of lawmakers to reevaluate ocean resource policies, especially as they relate to emerging resource industries.