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The Kankakee Wetlands: A Case Study in Ethics and Public Policy

  • Sarah E. Roberts (a1)


In 1996, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made a proposal to restore and preserve 30,000 acres of wetlands in Indiana's Kankakee River basin. Local farmers opposed this, expressing concerns about how a wildlife refuge would affect farming communities along the Kankakee River. Undergirding what seems to be a simple conflict between incompatible environmental and economic interests is a more fundamental conflict between competing ethical frameworks for evaluating public policy. One helpful approach is to examine the normative issues in the Kankakee dispute in terms of the contrast between consequentialist and non-consequentialist ethical frameworks. This article attempts to establish that a failure to recognize alternatives to the consequentialist framework has resulted in a failure of opposing parties to recognize and address each other's ethical concerns. An analysis of the Kankakee wetlands dispute will reveal why it is important for environmentalists to be cognizant of alternatives to consequentialist ethical frameworks.



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