Even today, thirty years after the legal battles to save the endangered snail darter, the little fish is often invoked as an icon of leftist extremism and governmental foolishness. In this eye-opening book, the environmental lawyer who fought and won the case, known officially as Hill et al. v. TVA, tells the hidden story behind one of the Supreme Court's most significant environmental law decisions. The truth of the darter's saga has been deliberately clouded, Zygmunt Plater asserts, and he offers a fully documented account of the six-year crusade against a pork barrel dam project that made no economic sense. This is how the case lives on in popular lore: a group of fringe extremists persuaded the nation's highest court to stop a gigantic Tennessee Valley hydroelectric dam that would have wiped out the snail darter's last known population. But Plater documents a wholly different story. The dam was actually small, and not a hydroelectric project. The group fighting to save the fish's river and valley were actually family farmers whose lands were being confiscated for a real estate development scheme. The TVA project, backed by powerful politicians, was deeply flawed from the start. Plater's gripping tale of mobilized citizens navigating the tangled corridors of national power at last sets the record straight.
Zygmunt Jan Broel Plater is professor of law and director of the Land & Environmental Law Program at Boston College Law School. He chaired Alaska's Oil Spill Commission Legal Task Force and has participated in numerous citizen environmental initiatives.