Attitudes towards nature have changed greatly in the last 60 years. Wildlife laws that contribute effectively to conserving biodiversity will look very different from the laws that were developed when wildlife was viewed simply as a resource to be exploited or when a few species or places were first granted legal protection. The purpose of this paper is to examine the attributes that laws supporting biodiversity should possess and to explore how the law has evolved to develop these by examining how the laws in one country, Scotland, have changed since the conservation of nature first came to be accepted as a desirable objective deserving legislative support. The early conservation measures simply prohibited specific forms of direct harm to a few selected species. Then the protective measures were extended in their range and a new dimension added by the recognition of the need to look after habitat as well as to prevent direct harm. In turn the habitat measures too have been extended, becoming stronger and responding to the appreciation that maintaining habitat in good health demands active conservation measures rather than just passive prevention of harmful activities. Now there is further emphasis on the eco-system approach to conservation and on biodiversity in all its forms and in all areas, requiring a further shift in approach.
Several points emerge as essential if the law relating to wildlife is to fulfil its potential. The law must be pervasive in its efforts to conserve biodiversity rather than dealing with designated sites or species in isolation from the wider environment. It must be positive, actively supporting biodiversity rather than just seeking to prevent particular harm. It must give conservation adequate priority in the face of competing interests. It must be participative, engaging a wide range of parties rather than being a closed matter for dedicated agencies and landowners. Finally, in view of the dynamic nature of our environment, and our understanding of it, it must be precautionary and proactive if the future health of the natural environment is to be secured. Only laws which display these attributes can be expected to meet the challenge of combating the many threats to biodiversity.
This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in the Journal of International Wildlife Law and Policy on 13th December 2012, available online: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13880292.2012.724326#.U8_Oc-NdV8F Article DOI 10.1080/13880292.2012.724326
- biodiversity law scotland