Publication Title

Environmental Law


National Environmental Policy Act

Document Type



We are gathered here to consider not so much a twenty year-old law but a twenty year-old that has been extraordinarily far-reaching and influential. In its own special way, the National Environmental Polic Act and the environmental assessment that it represents have become the legal equivalent of cultural fads such as Hula Hoops, Rubik's Cubes, and Air Jordans.

A good portion of this conference, I suspect, will be devoted to documenting the many measures of NEPA's significance—the legal business it has generated, the institutional moves it has inspired, the precious places it is credited with saving.

My opening remarks will assume that NEPA is a significant statutory presence and will explore the whys and wherefores. Two concepts borrowed from natural history will be used as the scaffolding-mimicry and recruitment.

[Prepared for NEPA at Twenty: The Past, Present and Future of the National Environmental Policy Act, co-sponsored by Northwestern School of Law of Lewis and Clark College and the Henry M. Jackson Foundation.]



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