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On Preserving Ecological and Cultural Landscapes

This paper highlights the parallel evolution of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973 and the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966 in the USA. It begins by reviewing the precursors to both laws, noting their shared historical roots in efforts to safeguard the country's national heritage. It then identifies the basic structure and requirements of each law, documenting their differences and similarities. Building on this statutory foundation, the paper traces the evolutionary paths these laws have taken since their passage. It is shown that both laws have moved with difficulty toward a more landscape-focused approach, becoming more alike in the process. The ESA has become fundamentally aimed at protecting ecosystems, not just single species, and the NHPA ultimately seeks to preserve dynamic systems of place and community, rather than just individual buildings or structures. The paper concludes by offering some thoughts on how and why the laws have struggled to achieve their goal of large-scale preservation, as well as some tentative suggestions for future reform.

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