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April 2002

Fred P. Bosselman
Professor of Law

To Professor Fred Bosselman, the field of environmental law is not a battleground where protectors of the environment and advocates of development must be locked in all-stakes campaigns. He recognizes that the aims of the two camps do not have to be mutually exclusive.

To Professor Fred Bosselman, environmental law is not a battleground where protecting the environment and promoting development are mutually exclusive.

Bosselman, the grandson of a German forester, learned early on to appreciate nature's beauty as well as its economic value. "My father would take me to the Morton Arboretum Saturday mornings many times a year. There I was taught by May Watts, a wonderful woman who was a famous teacher of natural history," recalls Bosselman. "That's probably what got me interested in nature, and that in turn got me interested in environmental law."

To say Bosselman is interested in environmental law is an understatement. For nearly 30 years, he dedicated his practice to environmental law, land development law and environmental conservation as well as real estate and energy law.

"I'm more interested in nature conservation and environmental law than I am in the pollution control aspect, but of course I've worked in that area as well," says Bosselman.

And while Bosselman has devoted his life's work to ensuring that natural resources are protected, he maintains a balanced approach toward land development and other environmentally sensitive issues.

"There are a lot of problems both with certain businesses and with certain environmental issues," he says. "In some cases I think the businesses are right, and in some cases I think they are wrong. I don't have a polarized position on environmental issues."

Bosselman's perspective is rather uncommon for someone immersed in the arena of conservation and environmental protection, but it serves as a foundation for his pragmatic view that both industry and the environment can thrive.

"It's not a question of being pro- or anti-environment," he says. "There are just so many special interest groups and they each have a particular perspective. Everyone has a valid point in a way, but everyone can't win."

In 1991, Bosselman changed his professional environment, moving from private practice to the world of academia when he joined the Chicago-Kent faculty.

"I always intended to leave the practice of law before a certain age," says Bosselman. "As a professor, you can spend a lot more time researching and writing."

Bosselman has taken full advantage the opportunity, recently publishing the book Managing Tourism Growth and the casebook Energy, Economics and the Environment, which has been incorporated into the environmental law curricula of more than 20 law schools. He is currently working on a book addressing the influence that the science of ecology has had on environmental law in the United States.

Bosselman's scholarship addresses how laws and community planning can help preserve the natural environment, while at the same time allowing for communities to thrive fiscally.
With forethought, he says, our broader environment – the natural environment as well as our cultural surroundings and our social and economic institutions – may be improved by development.

"Cities like Chicago and Milwaukee have done a great job of this: Milwaukee with the new art museum on the lakefront," Bosselman says. "Many cities have realized that putting money into museums and opera houses can be very beneficial... Chicago probably got Boeing because we have great opera."

While Bosselman advocates for the fusion of development and conservation, he concedes the two may not always mesh, citing the recent controversy over drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

"The issue here is almost more of a philosophical one," Bosselman explains. "Here is one of the last undeveloped regions in the United States, with almost no human activity. And even though almost nobody will visit it, there's a sense of knowing that its there, untouched. That means a lot to many people. I don't know if you can bring the two completely emotional viewpoints on this issue together."


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