Eric Biber


Adaptive management is the new paradigm in environmental law. It is omnipresent in scholarship and management documents and is even starting to appear in court opinions. There have been many calls for environmental law to adapt itself to adaptive management by becoming more flexible and dynamic. But does adaptive management really warrant a revolution in environmental law? Or is it adaptive management that might need to adapt to the world of environmental law? There has been an abundance of scholarship on the strengths of adaptive management, making the case for changing environmental law to embrace adaptive management. But answering the two questions above also requires a close examination of the limits of adaptive management and whether it is important enough for environmental law that wholesale changes in the legal structure are required. In this Article, I summarize the literature noting those limits, and my conclusion is that those limits are significant enough that we should be wary of wholesale revisions of environmental law to allow adaptive management to occur. Adaptive management has an important role to play, but there are many questions that it cannot answer. Moreover, the increased flexibility and dynamism that have been called for in environmental law would carry their own costs.