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Public Lands Management - Montana Field Study

A comparative approach to competing legal mandates and diverse philosophies that make federal land management a lively topic not only in the West, but throughout the country. Resource extraction, preservation, and sustainable/multiple-use concepts are addressed. 

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Professor Jack Tuholske and veteran students of the 2013 course held an informal Q&A session to answer student questions about what this backpacking course entails. You can view the discussion video here.

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RCRA - Solid and Hazardous Waste Regulation

Examines the regulation of solid and hazardous waste under the Resources Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and the Solid Waste Act, RCRA's overlap with other statutes, and the policy implications of the statute.  The course addresses the regulatory and policy problems associated with recycling, resource recovery, waste minimization, land disposal, incineration, underground storage tanks, and state and federal regulation of the generation, storage, transportation, treatment and disposal of solid and hazardous wastes.  

Regulating the Marine Environment

Examines the interaction of state, federal, and international regimes in the regulation of the marine environments through the examination of issues such as the marine environment as a source of energy; the nonrenewable resources of the seabed; and the winds, waves, currents, and temperatures of the sea itself.

Renewable Energy Law and Policy

This course explores the expanding field of renewable and alternative energy supplies. It reviews local, state, and federal laws and policies that promote (and impede) such sources, and considers emerging distributed generation models. Turning to technology-specific evaluations, it surveys the range of emerging technologies and looks in depth into some specific models of high potential or value, concluding with consideration of proposed strategies for reducing greenhouse gases.

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Risk Assessment

A science and law course taught from the perspective of a scientist.   This course examines the science, methods, principles and limitations of risk assessment and, more broadly, teaches methods of evaluating and critiquing scientific information.

Science for Environmental Law

Introduces students to the science critical to environmental law and policy, including climate science, air pollution, toxicology, and natural resource management. It also introduces students to scientific thinking and culture, and explores some of the challenges involved in effectively using science in legal and policy decision-making.

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Spanish Constitutional Law

An introduction to the study of comparative law that provides students with an opportunity to compare the Spanish and the American approaches to constitutional law.   The seminar focuses on similarities and differences in constitutional structure, methodology, and values.  Students attend lectures by leading Spanish legal scholars at VLS and at the University of Seville in Spain.  

State and Local Government

Examines the interaction between federal, state and local governments, with particular attention to resource management, pollution control, and human rights. The course also covers non-state jurisdictions such as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Indian Country.

The Law of Animals in Agriculture

Covers the evolution and regulation of animal agriculture in America, contrasted with farmed animal welfare policies in other developed nations. Will evaluate the long-term sustainability of CAFO food production specifically and animal food production generally. Students will explore the pressures from increased international trade in agricultural products.


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The Modern Farm Bill

An introduction to the policies and legal authorities included in the Farm Bill that Congress re-evaluates every 5 years. This course will demonstrate the impact of a modern farm bill on private working lands and consumers. International trade, clean energy, forestry, rural development, and overall food policies will be reviewed. 

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The Tools of Environmental Law

Introduces students to the various legal methods of achieving environmental improvement. Topics covered include market forces and emission trading; handling inspections and enforcement actions; environmental litigation and complex causation; acquiring and using information; risk assessment; and methods to account for and transfer environmental risks in business transactions.

Three Essentials of the Electric Grid

This course sets out, in three linked modules, the fundamental knowledge that professionals should have for working in the closely intertwined fields of energy and the environment. Students may take one, two, or three modules for one credit each.

Module A: Engineering Essentials

The engineering realities of electric power grids and natural gas pipelines greatly constrain the choices that lawyers and policy analysts might otherwise make. This module will cover the engineering fundamentals inherent in the current and expected energy infrastructure.

Module B: Business Essentials

The energy and electric power industries in the U.S. are facing unprecedented challenges in meeting our society’s demands for low-cost, high-reliability energy and electricity with lower environmental impacts. This module will introduce the major financial and economic factors that energy companies use in making production and investment decisions, and how emerging environmental regulations might affect these decisions. The module will also cover deregulated market structures in the petroleum, natural gas and electric power industries.

Module C: Legal Essentials

This module will provide an overview of the fundamentals of energy law in both the US and the European Union. It will focus on what financiers, engineers, and economists need to know about energy law in order to work together and with lawyers in the energy world. The course will address some of the most important problems faced by energy project development, including facility siting, environmental issues, and authority fragmentation. In every issue a comparative perspective will be adopted.

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Water Resources Law

Examines the three main systems of water law in the United States: Eastern riparian systems, the prior appropriation doctrine of the West, and the nationally diverse laws regulating the use of groundwater. The course will also review federal water allocation issues, interstate water disputes, tribal water rights matters, and will highlight contemporary water allocation dilemmas throughout the country.

Watershed Management and Protection

Taking "ecosystem approach" to the study of watersheds and the laws that attempt to restore and maintain them, the course contrasts the current fragmented approach of pollution control and land use law with the kind of integration that is needed to deal more effectively with the problems affecting watersheds. Topics include the public trust doctrine, water allocation, pollution control, floodplains and wetlands conservation, storm water controls, "factory farms," endangered species preservation,  and ecological restoration.  

Wetlands Conservation

Provides a survey of federal wetlands regulation under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and related laws and a discussion of international protections. Includes discussions of the basis for federal jurisdiction over wetlands, the fundamentals of the wetlands regulatory process, the role of wetlands in climate change, the relationship to other federal laws, enforcement, international treaties, and other obligations related to wetlands, and scientific and policy issues.

Wildlife Crimes: Nature, Scope, and Response

An introduction to the domestic statutes and international treaties that regulate and/or prohibit particular types of unlawful wildlife taking and trafficking, with emphasis on the enforcement schemes and methods used to address these crimes. The course includes a discussion of the most common types of wildlife crimes and an examination of the CITES treaty.