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The Snail Darter and the Dam

This tiny fish spurred an enormous environmental-legal battle. (wikipedia)

This tiny fish spurred an enormous environmental-legal battle. (Wikipedia)

From a Boston College law professor, we hear the extraordinary story of one small fish and a huge environmental-legal battle. 30 years ago lawyers, activists and local citizens managed to halt construction of a federal dam project in Tennessee. They used the brand new Endangered Species Act to make the case that the dam would destroy the habitat of a tiny, three-inch fish, the Snail Darter.

Their case went all the way to the Supreme Court — and they won. But their victory didn’t last. Many cast it as environmentalism run amok, leftist extremism that values a tiny fish over jobs, development and progress. Congress took notice and passed a law that allowed the dam project to go forward.

Zygmunt Plater was the lawyer, who along with his students, fought and won the Supreme Court case. Today, he’s a professor of law and director of the Land & Environmental Law Program at Boston College. And his new book, The Snail Darter and The Dam, tells the story of how pork barrel politics killed a river.

Guest

Zygmunt Plater, professor of law and director of the Land & Environmental Law Program at Boston College.

More

For photos, timelines, and more on this story, visit the book’s archive here.

Read an excerpt from The Snail Darter and the Dam, courtesy of Yale University Press.


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  • donniethebrasco

    They are delicious with butter and lemon.

    • Bighoss

      But eating one constitutes a prohibited taking under the Endangered Species Act, so don’t get caught with one in your doggy dish.

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