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Endangered Species Act Debate: Sansonetti v. Parenteau

April 15, 2019

Professor Parenteau vs. Thomas Sansonetti
Thomas Sansonetti & Visiting Professor Parenteau

On March 21, the UNM School of Law hosted a debate between two nationally-prominent legal experts on the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Thomas Sansonetti, a partner at the firm of Holland & Hart and former Solicitor of the Department of the Interior, squared off against UNM SOL Visiting Prof. Patrick Parenteau, who is on sabbatical from teaching at Vermont Law School and who has also served in leadership positions at the EPA and the National Wildlife Federation.

Sansonetti focused his initial remarks on the complicated mechanics of listing species and designating critical habitat, and provided an overview of related litigation. In contrast, Parenteau began by focusing on the critical importance of the law in preventing species extinction. Although approaching the ESA from different perspectives, both men encouraged law students to consider becoming ESA practitioners.

The speakers also debated details of the process of listing species, how they would reform the ESA if given the opportunity, how the current law falls short in providing conservation incentives to landowners, and whether they could see the government transition from a species-by-species process to a more holistic approach focused on entire ecosystems.

The debate was sponsored by UNM SOL’s Federalist Society, Environmental Law Society, and Student Animal Legal Defense Fund. Natural Resources and Environmental Law Program Chair Reed Benson moderated the event.