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Creation Date

3-17-2016

Description

Article reflects on recent federal decisions that awarded the federal government substantial recovery for damages from forest fires caused by the negligent conduct of a private party. In traditional forest fire cases, plaintiffs typically recovered damages for response and suppression costs, in addition to compensation for the value of damaged timber or restoration costs, but not for environmental impacts. By framing the effects of forest fires as “natural resource damages” and “intangible environmental damages,” the federal government has successfully recovered increasingly large amounts for the alleged harm to the environment and the value of lost ecosystem services. But a significant point of contention is whether there is any injury to the natural environment or loss of any ecological service following an unintentional forest fire that mimics a naturally occurring fire regime. Fire is an integral part of ecological landscapes and should be distinguished from traditional natural resource damage claims because of its role as a natural disturbance event and its beneficial effects. This Article proposes that forest fire damages be evaluated under a framework based on dynamic ecological principles that factors both beneficial and adverse impacts into recovery.

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