ENVIRON 302 - Topics in Environmental Social Science
Section: 002 Land Use Law and Policy
Term: FA 2009
Subject: Program in the Environment (ENVIRON)
Department: SNE Program in the Environment
Waitlist Capacity:
May be repeated for a maximum of 12 credit(s). May be elected more than once in the same term.
Primary Instructor:

Environmental policy and law came to the fore half a century ago in response to the pervasive environmental harms caused by industrial societies. Since then, we have had some success in addressing a variety of environmental problems, particularly those related to so-called point sources of pollution; that is, the discharge of effluents from pipes into waterways and the emission of various pollutants from smokestacks into the air. Nonetheless, we continue to grapple with a host of pressing and contentious environmental threats related to the use of land, including especially threats from the conversion of natural areas and farmland to so-called “suburban sprawl.” The environmental problems generated by these landscape changes include, for example, loss of ecologically diverse wildlife habitats, loss of functioning wetlands and floodplains, loss of prime agricultural farmlands, water quality degradation from urban stormwater runoff (nonpoint source pollution), and increased susceptibility of humans and developed property to catastrophic natural events like coastal storms and forest fires.

While a variety of federal highway, housing, and environmental programs and laws influence land use in important ways, direct control over the development and use of private lands has largely been the province of the states, and most states have delegated their authorities and responsibilities down to local governments through local planning, infrastructure policy, and regulatory enabling authorities. Given the complexity of land use-related environmental problems and the approaches we have taken historically to address them, land use-related environmental management in this country thus implicates complex relationships between policy, law, and government at the state and local level. Given this background, the overall purpose of this course will be to provide students with an overview of the policy and legal implications of land development and use, focusing primarily on the environmental implications of public planning, policy-making, and law at the state and local level.

The course is framed around four general topics, each of which will be addressed specifically to environmental issues:

  1. The scientific and moral justifications for undertaking land use management;

  2. The state and local institutional structures employed for managing land development and use in the U.S., focusing on planning, infrastructure policy, and regulation.

  3. The successes and failures of that state and local land management regime and corresponding efforts to reform it (e.g., primarily through “smart growth”); and

  4. The “wise-use” movement, a popular back-lash response to land management reforms.

This course will be useful for undergraduate students who are contemplating careers in urban and regional planning, public policy analysis, environmental management, and law. The course should also be useful for environmental science and engineering students who seek a broad understanding of the issues and institutional approaches we take to managing land development and use in the U.S.

ENVIRON 302 - Topics in Environmental Social Science
Schedule Listing
001 (LEC)
TuTh 10:00AM - 11:30AM
002 (LEC)
MW 8:30AM - 10:00AM
NOTE: Data maintained by department in Wolverine Access. If no textbooks are listed below, check with the department.

ISBN: 1559636858
Land use and society : geography, law, and public policy, Author: Rutherford H. Platt, Publisher: Island Press Rev. ed. 2004
ISBN: 9781597260077
Managing growth in America's communities, Author: Douglas R. Porter., Publisher: Island Press 2nd ed. 2008
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