For decades, scientific and legal scholars alike have promoted the concept of "adaptive management" as a necessary approach to meaningful environmental management, restoration, and regulation. Unfortunately, adaptive management success stories are few and far between. The Lake Apopka Restoration Project provides a real-world illustration of adaptive management at work. In this Article, I use adaptive management theory to explore mechanisms to make environmental law better able to address the uncertainties and changing nature of natural systems to restore and protect ecological resilience using the Lake Apopka restoration project as a case study. The case study involves more than fifty years of experience with environmental contamination, pollution control, clean-up, and restoration and demonstrates the need for an adaptive approach to respond to new information, unintended consequences, and changed economic and ecological circumstances. The case study involves a number of federal and state regulatory and incentive-based programs. This Article evaluates which approaches used on Lake Apopka were "adaptive" and which were not and how a multifaceted approach using a number of complex regulatory and non-regulatory tools may be needed to adequately deal with environmental restoration issues. Specifically, this Article takes an in-depth look at what SJRWMD did to shift Lake Apopka back to its non-eutrophic state and to reintroduce resilience mechanisms back into the lake. The Article also evaluates the adaptations that were necessary at virtually every step in the restoration process to respond to legal losses, changed circumstances, new scientific understandings, unintended consequences of restoration activities, and even tragic mistakes. The Article concludes by offering observations on the lessons from Lake Apopka that can be used to make future environmental restoration projects more adaptive and more successful at restoring ecological resilience.
Mary Jane Angelo,
Stumbling Toward Success: A Story of Adaptive Law and Ecological Resilience,
87 Neb. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/nlr/vol87/iss4/3