The Legal Framework of Protected Areas in the United States
A preliminary step in analyzing how conflicts that arise from protected area (PA) management are resolved in the legal system is to identify what the applicable laws are, how they evolve into the current status, and how PA law is situated in the general environmental law framework. This chapter aims to provide an overview of the legislative framework of PAs in the US. First, applicable congressional statutes related to PA management are analyzed with a particular focus on the National Park System. Second, legislative frameworks for other types of public land designations are discussed, and the differences in congressional mandates on different public land management agencies are identified. Third, overarching and generic legislation that applies to all types of public lands is discussed. Fourth, in addition to these statutory legislations, common law plays a role, albeit a controversial role, in public land management. Common-law principles are discussed, with a particular focus on the public trust doctrine.