The international law of shared natural resources : a case study of an international wildlife range between Alaska and the Yukon


University of British Columbia

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Master of Laws - LLM




Proposals have been made for the creation of an international wildlife range between Alaska and Yukon Territory, and for an international convention between Canada and the United States to protect the Porcupine Caribou herd. It is suggested that these developments do not take place in a legal void. General ideas of cooperation derived from theories of interdependence, liberal jurists and advocates of world government are insufficient to oblige neighbouring states to undertake specific action. This thesis, therefore, concentrates on the procedural obligations upon neighbouring states to cooperate in the exploitation and conservation of shared natural resources. It is suggested that general principles may be derived from several natural resource regimes international river basins, transfrontier pollution and straddling deposits of hydrocarbons. These specific regimes are supported by the work of the United Nations Environment Programme on natural resources shared by two or more states, and trends discernible in the general international law applicable to wildlife. In each regime the legal status of several principles is considered. For example, is there a duty to notify other states of plans to exploit a resource which may substantially affect the interests of that state? Is there a duty to exchange information and consult and negotiate in respect of the shared resource? The strongest support for these principles is found in the international river basin regime, although, in many cases a strong state practice is present though a sense of obligation on the part of states is lacking. In many cases considerable reliance is placed on state treaty practice as a source of customary law, and on the writings and deliberations of highly qualified groups of specialist jurists. The general principles derived from these resource regimes and the UNEP studies may be applied to the two proposals for the Northern Yukon to suggest that the United States of America and Canada are under some obligation to cooperate in respect of their shared resources.

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Law, Peter A. Allard School of