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  • Writer's pictureShelby

THE CCE: Understanding Conservation Law

Updated: Jun 27, 2022

The Center for Conservation Excellence (CCE), housed at the National Wild Turkey Federation’s

headquarters in Edgefield, S.C., and with support from the National Rifle Association’s Hunters’

Leadership Forum (HLF), Association for Fish and Wildlife Agencies, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife

Service, was created to both optimize and protect conservation efforts by focusing on educating

conservation professionals.

The mission of the CCE is to educate students at the collegiate and graduate levels, as well as practicing professionals in the wildlife conservation field regarding the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation (NAMWC), threats to modern conservation efforts, the animal rights extremism movement, and much more. This is incredibly important as decisions based on the court of public opinion in lieu of sound science and appropriate wildlife management tools are influencing how the public views its wildlife and ultimately votes on ballot initiatives.

The three main goals of the CCE include Undergraduate- and Graduate-Level Education; Post-Graduate and Supplemental Education; and Professional Opportunities. The recognition of needing this type of education has not been lost to organizations, state agencies, and academic institutions, such as West Virginia University College of Law. The CCE’s mission of conservation education began at Michigan State University College of Law (MSU Law) with a course taught by Professor Carol Frampton- Wildlife Law. This one course branched into a second course titled Legal Issues with Energy Development and Wildlife, the Conservation Law Center, and the Bull Moose Conservation Law Society, all at MSU Law. Seeing the growth of the conservation agenda at MSU Law made Professor Carol Frampton and Shelby DeVuyst, a graduate of MSU Law’s Conservation Law Center and a student of both of Frampton’s classes, want to extend the course and the goal of legal conservation education across the country.

Michigan State University College of Law:

Wildlife Law (2) | 565B

A study of how the legal system deals with wildlife issues. While federal law affecting wildlife is studied, this course's primary focus will be on the authority of the state fish and wildlife agencies to manage wildlife and the relationship of the federal and state governments as managers of the public’s wildlife. It will review wildlife-related laws from a variety of perspectives, including those that recognize sustainable use as a valid conservation tool, and regulated hunting as a component of conservation and sound wildlife management.

The class is responsible for publishing The Wildlife Law Call, a newsletter on current case law and articles pertinent to wildlife issues. Students are graded on their individual contribution to this publication.

The Wildlife Law syllabus covers a vast amount of information, and, oftentimes, students are hearing most of the information for the very first time during this course. Realizing that this course may be the first, and only, education that a future attorney, policy maker, judge, etc. receives on conservation law and its modern-day threats, only solidifies the mission of the CCE to have course like Wildlife Law

across the United States. The course covers topics such as:

The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation

The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation is the world's most successful system of policies and laws to restore and safeguard fish and wildlife and their habitats through sound science and active management. The Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies formally endorsed the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation at its 100-year anniversary meeting in September 2002 in Big Sky, Montana. In the United States and Canada, the Model operates on seven interdependent principles:

1. Wildlife resources are conserved and held in trust for all citizens.

2. Commerce in dead wildlife is eliminated.

3. Wildlife is allocated according to democratic rule of law.

4. Wildlife may only be killed for a legitimate, non-frivolous purpose.

5. Wildlife is an international resource.

6. Every person has an equal opportunity under the law to participate in hunting and fishing.

7. Scientific management is the proper means for wildlife conservation.

The Public Trust Doctrine

The Public Trust Doctrine, with its origin in Roman civil law, is an essential element of North American wildlife law. The Doctrine establishes a trustee relationship of government to hold and manage wildlife, fish, and waterways for the benefit of the resources and the public. Fundamental to the concept is the notion that natural resources are deemed universally important in the lives of people, and that the public should have an opportunity to access these resources for purposes that traditionally include fishing, hunting, trapping, and travel routes (e.g., the use of rivers for navigation and commerce).

Animal Rights v. Animal Welfare

The Animal Rights movement seeks to give animals “legal personhood,” allowing animals to sue in a court of law on behalf of their interests. The movement believes that animals are not ours to use for food, clothing, entertainment, or experimentation. However, in the United States, animals are classified as property in accordance with the law; often differing between personal property and as a public trust resource. Property law is often a first-year course in law colleges across the country; teaching important concepts of the field, including this topic of property ownership over both domestic and wild animals. A pet dog, for example, is a legally acquired animal that is held in private ownership as property, while wildlife is deemed the property of the people managed in trust by the state, affirmed by the Public Trust Doctrine.

Constitutional Right to Hunt & Fish

Americans’ rights to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife have long been an American heritage prior to the European’s colonization of North America. Although the right to hunt is not in the Constitution of the United States of America (“the Constitution”), the Tenth Amendment states “[t]he powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved by it for the States, or the people.” Meaning that the right to constitutionalize hunting, fishing, and the take of wildlife has been bestowed to the individual states. Currently, 23 states have sought amendments to their state constitutions and successfully enacted legislation to protect those rights. Two additional states have added language to their state constitutions to protect the rights of their residents to fish.

Do you want to be a part of the mission and help us get Wildlife Law at your local law school or alma

mater? Reach out today!

Shelby DeVuyst |


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