SMNR: Biodiversity Law

Class Unique: 29100
What the seminar is about. This Seminar examines the nature, structure, and content of biodiversity law, stressing its international and comparative aspects. Its chief focus is upon three general subjects: (1) the international regime of biodiversity protection, (2) the national models of biodiversity protection, and (3) the protection of tropical rain forests. Schedule. This is a short three-credit seminar. We will meet twice per week in January. Papers' presentations will be on February 22. The final version of the paper is due on March 28. The last day of class will be February 22. Objectives. The main purpose of the Seminar is to introduce students to the continuously expanding and evolving area of biodiversity protection. In that regard, we will study the role of law, ethics, science, and policy in ensuring the protection of biodiversity and related natural resources, particularly after UNCED (United Nations Conference on Environment and Development) was held in Rio de Janeiro, in 1992. We will discuss in detail the importance and effectiveness of the 1992 Biodiversity Convention as well as its implementation in different jurisdictions. The seminar is divided into three parts. Part 1 gives an introduction to the objectives, principles, and instruments of biodiversity protection. It starts with the foundations of biodiversity law, followed by a retrospective on habitat and biological diversity loss along with a discussion of the different ethical and legal rationales for the protection of nature. In addition, this segment explores the basic international framework for the protection of biodiversity, including the 1940 Convention on Nature Protection and Wildlife Preservation in the Western Hemisphere, the 1971 Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, the 1973 CITES - Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species, the 1982 World Charter for Nature, and the 1992 Biodiversity Convention, among others. Part 2 studies the national legal responses to the biodiversity crisis, including the U.S. legislative and judicial initiatives in the field. We will analyze seven different topics in the biodiversity context: protected areas, endangered species, wildlife, forests, wetlands, soil conservation, and natural resources damage. Part 3 examines the protection of biodiversity in a unique context: the Amazon Rain Forest. The purpose of this segment is to verify if traditional biodiversity protection principles, instruments and institutions have equal application in jurisdictions that do not share the same level of economic, social, cultural, and political development. Methodology. The course will use five types of learning tools:
  1. legal (and also non-legal) texts
  2. long distance conference call discussions
  3. lectures by experts from outside the Law School
  4. short oral presentations by students
  5. research paper
Reading materials. There is no single book that covers the subject matter in full detail. The seminar will use reading materials from different authors, most of them Americans. The texts written by foreign authors will be in English. Video conferences. There will be one or two video conferences among the students and the author of one of the articles or chapters of books previously assigned. In past years scholars from the U.S., U.K., Australia, Austria, France, Italy, Belgium, Brazil and Germany joined the discussions. Lectures by outside experts. Finally, there will be at least one opportunity in which outside experts will visit the Law School and exchange their views with the students on a specific issue of the seminar program. Oral Presentations to Class. Each student must make a presentation of her/his paper, during which she will lead a class discussion about her topic for approximately 30 minutes. In addition to that, students will be required to make short 15-20 minute oral presentations of assigned texts. The use of hand-outs and Powerpoint presentations is encouraged. Research Paper. The paper should be 15-30 pages long, typed, double spaced. Students are expected to choose their paper topics in consultation with the class instructor. Interim drafts will not be graded. Failure to meet deadlines in timely fashion without the instructor's prior permission will affect the overall assessment. A copy of the second draft of each student's paper will be circulated to the group before its presentation. The final version of the paper should be submitted no later than March 28 and reflect relevant commentary during the presentation. Grading. There are six components to the final grade:
  1. final paper: 40%
  2. paper presentation: 15%
  3. paper criticism: 10%
  4. short-presentations: 15%
  5. class participation: 10%
  6. class attendance: 10%
  7. The paper will be graded on five criteria (in order of decreasing importance): a) critical thinking; b) quantity and quality of research; c) organization; and d) overall impression. Prerequisites. There are no prerequisites. The students are not expected to have taken environmental law, international law or comparative law. However, previous knowledge in those areas would be useful. Students from other departments are most welcome.

Class Details

Meeting Days Time Location
Tuesday 5:30 - 7:30 pm CCJ 3.306
Thursday 3:30 - 6:30 pm TNH 3.128
Evaluation Method Date Time Alpha Range Room

Additional Information

Course Type


Benjamin, Antonio H. Benjamin, Antonio H.