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Going the Way of the Dodo: De-Extinction, Dualisms, and Reframing Conservation

August 2016

Citation: ELR 10701

Author: Alejandro E. Camacho

De-extinction, an emerging suite of selective breeding or biotechnological processes for reviving and releasing into the environment members or facsimiles of an extinct species, has been the subject of a recent surge of analysis in popular, scientific, and legal literature. Unfortunately, conservation laws likely to govern the revival and introduction of de-extinct species like the Dodo largely remain premised on outdated assumptions of nature as static and firmly divisible from human activity. Endangered species, invasive species, and public land management laws habitually privilege and even actively promote what they identify as natural and native over the unnatural and exotic. An analysis of the effect these laws might have on de-extinction efforts illustrates the limitations of the law’s reliance on these crude dualisms. Currently, deextinct species will often be obstructed as non-native and introduced (even if they might promote ecological function in a particular area) and may be allowed or promoted in locations they used to exist (even if likely to cause ecological damage). Accordingly, this Article argues that policymakers need to reformulate legal frameworks to be less dependent on simplistic dualisms in favor of cautious risk assessment and adaptive management that recognizes the dynamism of nature and humanity’s indivisibility from it.

Alejandro E. Camacho is a Professor of Law and Director, Center for Land, Environment, and Natural Resources, University of California, Irvine School of Law.

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