Natural Resources Law

Natural resource law involves land use for business, industry, and public benefit. This includes accessing natural resources, like air, gas, oil, trees, and water. There are often competing interests in natural resource law, and courts can interpret environmental laws to regulate industrial use.

If you have questions about the beneficial use of public lands or protecting federal land, talk to a natural resource lawyer for legal advice.

What Is Natural Resource Law?

Natural resource law can be a type of environmental law. Environmental law generally regulates pollution control and remediation. Natural resource laws often deal with how property owners can use their own property and conservation or use of natural resources available.

Historically, environmental and natural resources laws allowed property owners full use and exploitation of any materials on the land. If a landowner had valuable resources of their property, they could remove, use, or sell any and all of their mineral or water rights without concern for conservation or preservation.

Over time, resource extraction and environmental exploitation became more restricted because of the long-term and widespread effects of unchecked land use like:

  • Loss of wildlife habitat, fisheries, and biodiversity
  • Erosion
  • Flooding
  • Worsening air quality and pollution

Natural resource laws were designed to slow resource extraction and provide for more sustainable resource management.

Environmental Laws and Protections in the U.S.

The federal government enacted the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in January 1970. This law created the Council on Environmental Quality. The same year, the government passed the Environmental Quality Improvement Act and established the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Other important environmental laws include:

  • The Clean Air Act of 1963
  • The Clean Water Act
  • The Endangered Species Act of 1973
  • The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
  • Federal Lands Policy and Management Act
  • The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980

Competing Interests in Natural Resources and Land Use

Natural resource law often involves competing interests over land and water resources. Some parties want to conserve natural resources, including environmental and public interest advocacy groups. Other parties want full rights over their property, including business and industry.

There are also disputes between federal control and states’ rights. Federal agencies like the EPA can restrict property owners’ use of their own properties. However, property owners may claim that their property use falls under state law and that federal agencies don’t have jurisdiction.

How a Natural Resource Lawyer Can Help

Natural resource law can be complex and involves issues of administrative law, energy law, and water law. For property owners who want to sell and use the resources on their land, a lawyer can help you understand your legal rights and any possible legal challenges you may face. If an environmental group wants to stop your use of your land, a natural resource law attorney can represent you in court.

For property owners, policymakers, or climate change nonprofits who want to slow natural resource depletion, a lawyer can provide legal advice. A natural resource lawyer can file a legal action to stop natural resource use. An experienced lawyer can also file a lawsuit to protect certain natural resources or restrict their access and use.

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