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E. Donald Elliott, Bruce A. Ackerman & John C. Millian, Toward a Theory of Statutory Evolution: The Federalization of Environmental Law, 1 J. LAW, ECON. & ORG. 313 (1985)


Let us begin by renouncing two of the more ambitious implications of the
title. No, we do not believe that any single theory can do justice to all varieties
of statutory development. Nor do we believe that everything worth saying
about the processes by which statutes change can be captured by analogy to
biological evolution.
Just as each human being has a unique life history, so too statutes are born,
live, and die under circumstances that are unlikely to be duplicated. What we
are embarked on is an exercise in statutory biography: by tracing the life
histories of statutes in the environmental area, we hope to deepen our
understanding of the factors that influence the growth and development of
statutory law over time. .
In this paper, we will not attempt to summarize all our conclusions or
provide full documentation. We are presently working on a book which will
describe more comprehensively the circumstances which influenced the
development of the environmental statutes of the 1970s. Our goal at the
moment is more modest. We will describe in general terms what we have in
mind when we say that statutes "evolve" and then illustrate by describing a
particularly important period in the history ofenvironmental law. During this
period, roughly from 1965 through 1970, strong federal environmental legislation
was passed, although environmentalists were not yet well-organized as
a conventional interest group in Washington. Thus, the period is interesting
in its own right because it seems to contradict the usual wisdom that statutes
are passed in response to political activity by well-organized pressure groups.

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