Center for Progressive Reform

Protecting Wildlife and Ecosystems

The nation’s -- indeed, the world's -- wildlife and ecosystems are under sustained assault from overdevelopment, pollution, poor stewardship and more.  CPR Member Scholars have written extensively on the subject.

One particular focus for scholars has been devising strategies for cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay.  The nation's largest estuary, the Chesapeake has been deteriorating since the 1930s, when water clarity, crab and oyster populations, and underwater bay grasses began to decline. Excess nutrients – phosphorus and nitrogen – and sediment runoff from agriculture, urban and suburban development, and sewage treatment plants caused the Bay’s cloudy waters, resulting in “dead zones” containing too little oxygen to support aquatic life. The Bay’s oyster population has been devastated, down to 2 percent of its average levels in the 1950s. The Bay’s famous blue crab populations are also low, about 30 percent below the annual average from 1968 to 2002.  CPR Member Scholars have studied the problem closely, authoring a series of reports on how to finally clean up the Bay after years of neglect. 

Another area of interest to CPR Member Scholars is the preservation of functioning ecosystems. In the decades since Congress and state legislatures passed most of our biggest environmental laws, knowledge about ecosystems has increased dramatically, and scientists now know much more about the “goods and services” that ecosystems provide. But policymakers haven’t yet taken advantage of much of that new knowledge. CPR Scholars have observed that as ecologists learn more about the complex and dynamic interactions that produce these valuable services, decisionmakers and advocates should adopt an ecosystem services approach to implementing laws that affect the environment. CPR Scholars are helping to define the ecosystem services approach to implementing laws that affect the environment, the beginning of a long-term discussion on how to adapt environmental, natural resources, and other laws to our dependence on functioning, dynamic ecosystems. 

Read a CPR web article on Protecting Ecosystem Services, and check out various materials from CPR the topic:

  • Ecosystem Services Manual. Letting Nature Work in the Pacific Northwest: A Manual for Protecting Ecosystem Services Under Existing Law (CPR White Paper 1304), defines the approach and identifies both prerequisites and principles for implementing it. The paper then applies the ecosystem services approach in the context of floodplain restoration, focusing on flood hazard mitigation and the broad range of services provided by floodplains.

  • Ecosystem Services Webinar. In April 2013, CPR hosted a webinar to discuss the publication and its key points. Presenters included CPR Member Scholars Robert W. Adler, Robert L. Glicksman, Daniel J. Rohlf, and Robert R.M. Verchick.

CPR Member Scholars have also been active in defending the Endangered Species Act from a variety of efforts to weaken its provisions.  Learn about CPR Member Scholars’ work to protect precious natural resources from destruction and misuse:


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