Court says there's no "constitutuonal right to wilderness"

  • 5 August 2019
  • NormanL

There are any number of organizations, primarily on the left, who believe climate change is the single greatest threat facing humanity. And because they think this is so, they also believe any government that isn't doing everything possible to reshape human behavior to stop rising temperatures is violating a fundamental right.

The idea that the U.S. Constitution guarantees an individual right to a clean, sustainable, mild environment got a court test recently. It did not go well for Team Green. As the Competitive Enterprise's Marlo Lewis writes:

Oregon District Court Judge Michael McShane on July 31st rejected a petition by two nonprofit groups—Animal Legal Defense Fund and Seeding Sovereignty—and six individuals who allege the U.S. government’s failure to combat climate change violates their constitutional right to a safe and sustainable environment. Plaintiffs claim climate change is damaging the health, beauty, and accessibility of wilderness areas. They ask the Court to order federal agencies to protect their “constitutional right to wilderness” by phasing out fossil fuel extraction, animal agriculture, and logging of old-growth forests.

Lewis notes the judge said the plaintifs had no grounds to sue. But Judge McShane went further:

...[he] also rejected the petition because lower courts are not the proper forum for engaging in what plaintiffs call “revolutionary thinking.” The Judge thus declined to create a new fundamental “right of wilderness” that is not enumerated in the Constitution or found in Supreme Court precedent. In this connection, the Judge cites more than a dozen cases establishing that “there is no fundamental right to a particular type of environment or environmental conditions.”

Which is common sense.

You can read the Judge's opinion here.