Using Citizen Suits to Protect Biodiversity


William Snape

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Over the past several decades, environmental advocates have expended enormous effort attempting to pass laws that protect air, water, land and species.' But even the best written laws will not be effective unless they are implemented. At the federal level, most modern environmental statutes include enforcement mechanisms that allow for the active involvement of the public. The most common of these are provisions authorizing citizen suits and public comments on proposed agency actions. The rationale for this public involvement is simply that federal agencies sometimes do not enforce or obey the laws they are charged to uphold. For instance, without the ability of citizens to sue the federal government, many ancient forest stands in the Pacific Northwest would not exist today. In one particularly important case, a federal judge admonished Bush administration officials for a violation of the National Forest Management Act as "a deliberate and systematic refusal by the Forest Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service to comply with laws protecting wildlife. "'