Bret Birdsong
Bret Birdsong
Associate Professor
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
William S. Boyd School of Law
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"During my Ian Axford Fellowship, I studied the role of New Zealand's Environment Court in the development of the law of sustainability under the Resource Management Act (RMA) while placed at the Office of Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment. Focusing on three substantive legal areas – the meaning of sustainability, the practice of effects-based management, and the promotion of public participation in environmental decisionmaking – my report offered thoughts on the unique position of the Environment Court as a specialized tribunal with powers of de novo review of local government decisions. As part of my research, I traveled the country widely, talking with resource management practitioners, lawyers, academics, and Environment Court judges about the functions and decisions of the court. Before returning home, I presented my report to the Ministry for the Environment, which was conducting a comprehensive review of the RMA and several other organizations. In the United States, I presented my report to the Environmental Law Institute and facilitated meetings between the New Zealand Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment and the U.S. Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division. I also expect to publish an article on the Environment Court in an American law journal, focusing on lessons the U.S. courts can draw from New Zealand's system of reviewing environmental decisions. Overall, my experience as an Ian Axford Fellow has immeasurably broadened my horizons and enabled me to see things that were previously obscured." bret.birdsong@unlv.edu

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