Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute

Carver Colloquium

Carver Colloquium Logo

The Carver Colloquium is an annual event hosted by the Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute and Jan Laitos, the John A. Carver, Jr. Chair at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and presented in partnership with the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. Held each fall term, the Colloquium features two leading legal or planning scholars from the land use, environmental and natural resources law fields. The Colloquium presents divergent or alternative viewpoints on cutting-edge issues in these fields in a point-counterpoint format.

8th Annual Carver Colloquium

The Role of NEPA:
Does It Protect the Environment or Obstruct Progress?

Monday, November 19, 2018
Click Here to View a Video Presentation of This Event

The National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) was passed almost fifty years ago and was the first piece of national environmental legislation in the United States. Its purpose is “to foster action that protects, restores, and enhances our environment.”

NEPA requires that environmental issues are considered as part of the decision-making process for all major federal actions, by ensuring that the environmental impacts of these actions are identified and discussed before the action takes place.

Critics of NEPA say that NEPA’s requirements are no longer needed in light of the numerous other federal, state, and local environmental regulations now in place. Further, the cost of performing an environmental assessment, the lengthy approval process, and litigation of disputes create significant barriers to needed development projects.

The Trump administration is proposing that NEPA be significantly streamlined and modified in order to speed up infrastructure improvements, energy projects, timber harvesting, and public rangeland use.

This year’s Carver Colloquium featured a debate over whether or not NEPA should be repealed (or significantly limited), and featured Justin Pidot, Professor of Law at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and Sandi Zellmer, Professor of Law at the University of Montana’s Alexander Blewett School of Law.


Justin Pidot
Professor of Law
University of Denver Sturm College of Law

Justin Pidot graduated with high honors from Wesleyan University before attending Stanford Law School, where he graduated with distinction and was editor in chief of the Stanford Environmental Law Journal. Professor Pidot served as the Deputy Solicitor for Land Resources for the Department of the Interior during the Obama Administration. He also clerked for Judge Judith W. Rogers of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Prior to joining the University of Denver faculty, he was an appellate litigator at the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, where he presented argument in more than a dozen federal appellate cases and acted as the staff attorney on two cases before the United States Supreme Court. Professor Pidot also completed a fellowship at the Georgetown Environmental Law & Policy Institute. Professor Pidot’s scholarship and teaching focus on environmental law, natural resources law, and federal courts.

Sandi Zellmer
Professor and Director of Natural Resources Clinics
University of Montana Alexander Blewett School of Law

Sandra B. Zellmer is a Professor and Director of Natural Resources Clinics at the University of Montana School of Law. Previously, she was the Robert B. Daugherty Professor at the University of Nebraska College of Law. She teaches public lands, wildlife, water law, torts, and related courses. Zellmer has recently served as a board member of the Society for Wilderness Stewardship and the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation, and is a member scholar of the Center for Progressive Reform. She is a vice-chair of the ABA Section on Environment, Energy, and Resources--Committee on Public Lands. Zellmer has published dozens of law review articles as well as several books, including Legal Control of Water Resources (2018) (with Thompson, Leshy, and Abrams), Natural Resources Hornbook (2015) (with Laitos), A Century of Unnatural Disasters: Mississippi River Stories (NYU 2014) (with Klein), and Comparative Environmental and Natural Resources Law (2013). Before teaching, Zellmer was an attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice Environment and Natural Resources Division, representing the National Park Service, Forest Service, and other federal agencies.


Jan Laitos
John A Carver Jr. Chair
University of Denver Sturm College of Law

Jan Laitos holds the John A. Carver Jr. Chair at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. He is a Reporter for the Planning and Environmental Law Review; a regional board member of the Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute; and Trustee of the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law foundation. He was Vice Chair of the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission. In 1996, he was given the University of Denver’s distinguished Teaching Award, and in 2005, he was selected a “DU Law Star.” He has worked as a consultant on several cases decided by the 9th Circuit Court of Federal appeals, the Montana Supreme Court, the Nevada Supreme Court, the Idaho Supreme court, and the Colorado Supreme Court, and on several petitions before the United States Supreme Court.


7th Annual Carver Colloquium

To Shrink or Not to Shrink?
Presidential Authority Over National Monuments
Click Here to View a Video Presentation of This Event

The American Antiquities Act of 1906 provides for the protection and preservation America’s cultural and natural resources, enabling presidents to set aside areas to protect objects and landscapes with historic, scientific, and cultural significance through the designation of national monuments. The 2017 Carver Colloquium explores the ability of standing presidents to diminish or abolish national monuments created by past presidents.

Colloquium Materials
Relevant Legal Texts
National Monuments Background Data
Rasband: Stroke of the Pen, Law of the Land?
Squillace et al: Presidents Lack the Authority to Abolish or Diminish National Monuments
Squillace: The Monumental Legacy of the Antiquities Act of 1906

6th Annual Carver Colloquium

Water for Sale: Prior Appropriation or Free Market Trade?
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Can Colorado’s prior appropriation doctrine accommodate a free market system for water? And if it can, should it? The speakers from the 2016 Carver Colloquium address these questions, as well as whether water should be traded as a commodity in water markets, rural and urban equity, and how prior appropriation can protect environmental and recreational values.

Colloquium Materials:
Article by Justice Hobbs
Article by Professor Libecap

5th Annual Carver Colloquium

State Control of Federal Lands: Legal or Not?
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Federal ownership of public lands has been a hotly debated topic in the West, long before the Sagebrush Rebellion of the 1970s and 80s first brought it national attention. Now the issue is back in the news—and in legislatures and courts—across the West. At the heart of the issue, however, is whether states have any legal claim to these lands. Despite several attempts to pass legislation in the past, the federal government has retained control. The 5th annual Carver Colloquium focused on whether current efforts to transfer control to the states can succeed.

4th Annual Carver Colloquium

Fracking Bans & Setbacks: An Unconstitutional Takings?
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A Takings is the seizure of private property or a substantial deprivation of the right to its free use that is caused by government action. This year’s event will debate the issue of whether or not proposed fracking bans and setbacks constitute a takings.

3rd Annual Carver Colloquium

The Colorado Compact: Effective or Obsolete?
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Negotiated almost a century ago, the Colorado River Compact allocates water supply among many of the western states, but it may be outdated. The Compact overestimated the amount of water available from the Colorado River, seeming to benefit Arizona, Nevada, and California at the expense of Upper Basin states like Colorado, and failed to anticipate current and future demands on the River that have been exacerbated by climate change. Is the Compact still relevant or should we throw it out and start over?

2nd Annual Carver Colloquium

Local Regulation of Oil & Gas Production
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The 2013 Carver Colloquium featured a debate between UCLA Professor Robert Freilich and Dan Domenico, the Colorado Solicitor General. The Colloquium focused on the challenges facing local governments regarding oil and gas drilling and production in their communities, in light of the traditionally dominant regulatory role played by state authorities, such as the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission.

Carver Colloquium

The Governance of Renewable Energy Transmission
The first Carver Colloquium featured former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, Jr. and Robin Kundis Craig, Associate Dean of the Florida State University College of Law, who presented two models of governance to overcome this challenges of energy transmission.


The Carver Colloquium is presented by:
University of Denver Sturm College of Law Logo RMLUI Logo
Lincoln Institute of Land Policy

Sturm College of Law
University of Denver
2255 E. Evans Avenue
Denver, CO 80208