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Abstract

To avoid extinctions and other harms to ecological health from escalating climatic change, scientists, resource managers, and activists are considering and even engaging in "assisted migration" -the intentional movement of an organism to an area in which its species has never existed. This Article explores the profound implications of climate change for American natural resource management through the lens of this controversial adaptation strategy. It details arguments regarding the scientific viability and legality of assisted migration under the thicket of laws that govern natural resources in the United States. The Article asserts, however, that the fundamental tensions raised by this strategy are ethical: to protect endangered species or conserve native biota; to manage ecological systems actively or leave nature wild and uncontrolled; and to preserve resources or manage them to promote their fitness under future conditions. The Article explains why contemporary natural resource law's fidelity to historic baselines, protecting preexisting biota, and shielding nature from human activity is increasingly untenable, particularly in light of climate change. Active, anticipatory strategies such as assisted migration may not only be permissible but even necessary to avert substantial irreversible harm to ecological systems.

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