Faculty Profile: Christine Klein

Environmental patriotism will become a well-known phrase in every household, regardless of political affiliation, if Professor Christine Klein has her way.

Klein is researching methods of environmental protection and developing the idea that conservation is a “bipartisan family value.” Simply put, Klein is a passionate believer that conservation is the highest expression of patriotism, and one of the best ways to ensure that the nation’s environmental wealth will be passed on to the next generation.

Long a stalwart supporter of employing the law to protect the environment, Klein began practicing water allocation law in the western United States right out of law school in 1987. She worked at the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, focusing on an innovative state program that acquired western-style water rights to maintain minimum stream flows and lake levels to preserve the natural environment.

Later she moved to Michigan State University, where she taught water law and studied the Great Lakes system. There, she was intrigued by the growing opposition to water “export” out of the Great Lakes to other regions of the country.

Klein joined the UF law faculty in 2003. She has followed with interest the developing debate in Florida over the potential transport of water from water-rich areas such as North Florida to more populated areas of the state.

Drawing from her experiences in Colorado, Michigan and Florida, she argues that “the search for new water sources should not be the default principle of water management.” Instead, Klein is urging a focus on reducing the demand rather than increasing the supply. Regardless of the region, she feels conservation efforts can significantly whittle down the ever-increasing demand.

“I am trying to find a middle ground to maintain the link between land and water and to preserve the integrity of watersheds,” Klein said.

Her actions are gaining notice. This past year Klein was invited to join the Center for Progressive Reform, a network of 50 progressive scholars from universities across the country. They are committed to protecting public health, safety and the environment through research, analysis and commentary.

She said she is honored to be affiliated with the Center for Progressive Reform and has joined its effort to structure the next generation of environmental law. Her work there parallels her research. Currently, she is canvassing water laws of all 50 states to identify methods of regulating the export of water from one watershed to another. She is particularly interested in identifying models of sustainability currently in use that may serve as models for other states.

“I am proud to be at a university like UF because there is a campus wide effort to maintain sustainability,” Klein said, referring to the university’s initiative to become a global leader in sustainability.“Conservation to manage demand—rather than a broad geographic search for new supplies of water, oil, and other natural resources—is the most equitable and cost-effective approach.”

Aline Baker