Environmental Enforcement: Academic Requirements, Professional Outlook

Environmental Enforcement:  Academic Requirements, Professional Outlook

Environmental Enforcement

Environmental Enforcement protects humans, wildlife and the environment by responding to violations of environmental law. Environmental laws are there to protect our health and well-being, as well as our enjoyment of natural areas. There are rules governing how individuals, governments and companies can use natural resources, land, and common resources (such as air and water). Sometimes, these laws are broken, either deliberately or by accident. Environmental Enforcement officials monitor this system.

One responsibility of Enforcement officials is to help contain hazardous and non-hazardous spills, leakages, and other violations. If the offender does not take proper action to contain spills, or does not report an accident, Enforcement officials can issue fines or even arrest or sue the offender.

Other Enforcement officials protect something specific, such as a wildlife refuge, a protected wilderness area, or a wetland. They may enforce provisions of the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and other legislation.

The Academic Requirements

Environmental Enforcement is a relatively new field, so there aren't many academic programs devoted strictly to it. It is, however, an important component of many types of environmental majors, including environmental health, forestry, wildlife conservation, and environmental law.

Students interested in the field should learn about environmental laws and statutes, and how they are enforced at the national and local levels. Students will learn about the history and ethics behind environmental laws as well.

Here are some courses that we've seen:

  • Environmental Law Enforcement Theories and Principles
  • Resource Policy and Law
  • Natural Resources and Public Relations
  • Criminology
  • Philosophy of Law
  • Environmental Ethics
  • Law and Legal Systems
  • Environmental Policy
  • General Biology
  • Introduction to Fish and Wildlife
  • Environmental Chemistry Testing and Analysis
  • Environmental Conservation Outdoor Recreation Law
  • Principles of Terrestrial and Aquatic Biology

Professional Outlook

Environmental Enforcement officers work with local, state and Federal agencies, or non-profit groups, to look for and correct environmental legislation violations. Traditionally, this has meant that officers monitor a potential violator (say, a power plant) and fine the company if they do violate the law. However, in today's economic climate, many states lack the funds to properly monitor all potential violators. Instead, many state environmental agencies have decided to work with companies to help them come into compliance without assessing penalties. It is hoped that companies will realize the economic benefits of compliance and voluntarily fix problems. For more information on this debate, please read http://progressiveregulation.org/perspectives/environEnforce.html.

Since there are many different branches of environmental enforcement, there are many different career paths one can pursue. Wildlife officers may work in forests, parks and other natural areas to monitor the protection of wildlife. These officers often work outside, and they may work with law enforcement officials to catch criminals, such as poachers.

Those monitoring pollution may tour plants, record and analyze data, collect samples, and present their findings in reports and conferences. This is a good field for environmental scientists and technicians. Although monitoring jobs require technical and scientific knowledge, most employers provide specific on-the-job training for your particular duties.

Some Environmental Enforcement professionals work in other countries, helping foreign environmental ministries establish sound enforcement policies.

Here are some job titles that we've seen, including some of the organizations that offer them, all of which included a requirement for experience in Population Studies:


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