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Protecting Our Environment in a Virtual Age: How Wildlife Webcams Could Strengthen Enforcement of the Endangered Species Act

November 2013

Citation: ELR 11021

Author: Erin J. Coburn

With the introduction of wildlife webcams, anyone with an Internet connection can view real-time, live video feed capturing a variety of species, including endangered species, in their natural habitats from a remote location. The U.S. Supreme Court held in Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife that a potential citizen plaintiff must have plans to physically visit the species in its natural habitat in order to satisfy the injury-infact requirement. As a result of the development of wildlife webcam technology, and based on the neurological processes that stimulate aesthetic enjoyment of an object, the distinction between physically visiting a species and viewing it in real time from a remote location for purposes of standing makes little sense. Citizens who engage in aesthetic enjoyment of wildlife remotely via wildlife webcam should be able to satisfy the injury-in-fact prong of constitutional standing and should be able to bring suit under the ESA to protect the species that they view.

Erin J. Coburn is an attorney in private practice focusing on environmental and land use issues.

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