March 29, 2010
Renee DeGross Valdes, 404-413-1353
ATLANTA - Julian Juergensmeyer has spent a lifetime studying land use planning law and when the chance came up to help save a bog in a remote part of Poland, he jumped in - literally.
Juergensmeyer, professor and the Ben F. Johnson chair in the College of Law, led a multi-year law project to help create awareness of the Rospuda River Valley’s pristine wetlands, home to a virgin pine forest, rare orchids and birds.
His goal: help environmentalists and the European Union convince Poland’s government to re-route a stretch of the Via Baltica trans-European highway - linking Finland with the Mediterranean Sea - around the bog.
When Juergensmeyer first visited the bog, he was entranced by its primeval beauty.
“Standing out in the middle of the bog, I had the impression I had descended from a time machine which had taken me back to pre-historic times,” said Juergensmeyer.
Since 1989, the Rospuda Valley has been a protected landscape park and since 1991, a no-noise zone, but not a natural reserve. The lower section of the Rospuda Valley is a bird protection site.
For the law project, Juergensmeyer organized a letter writing campaign among professors and law students in the United States and in Poland. He also visited Poland a half dozen times to help garner interest and awareness for the Rospuda bog, which is one of the last untouched natural areas in that part of Eastern Europe.
Initially, he became interested in the legal aspects of the controversy - centered on the legal status of plans and projects which predated Poland’s European Union membership. He looked at the enforceability and implementation of EU environmental protection policies and programs in new member states.
Ultimately, the legal battle turned political. Environmentalists protested and the EU blocked the Poland government’s early construction efforts. Then last year, the Polish government announced an alternate route for the Via Baltica segment in dispute - answering the public outcry to save the bog.
“Many important legal issues will go unresolved for the moment because of the largely political solution,” he said. “But the goal was to save the Rospuda Bog and that has happened.”
Juergensmeyer’s peers and former colleagues call him an authority in land use and infrastructure and a pioneer in the development of impact fees – and he has devoted 45 years to these topics.
In honor of Juergensmeyer’s lifetime contributions to the law, a symposium, entitled “A 2020 View of Urban Infrastructure,” was held March 25 in Atlanta. The symposium speakers are cohorts, with whom Juergensmeyer worked, studied, taught or co-authored publications and books during the last four-plus decades.
“Julian’s impact on the development of law relating to growth, planning and the environment cannot be overstated,” said College of Law Dean Steven J. Kaminshine. “His arrival here 10 years ago was a significant step in the advancement of this law school. This symposium serves as a well-deserved recognition of his distinguished career.”
Speaking at a luncheon in Juergensmeyer’s honor, former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes, talked to the issue of transportation planning in metro Atlanta.
“That we can be a city of 5.5 million people and not have integrated transportation system is absolutely absurd,” Barnes said. “Today we have a deficit in infrastructure that is mindboggling. People are ready for change.”
While at GSU’s College of Law, Juergensmeyer launched with Law Professor Colin Crawford, the Center for the Comparative Study of Metropolitan Growth. The center provides students an opportunity to be part a network of lawyers and other professionals committed to addressing the growth challenges faced by this rapidly growing region.
As part of their work with the center, Juergensmeyer and Crawford launched Georgia State’s first joint law degree program with Georgia Tech. The program allows graduate students to earn a law degree from Georgia State and a master of city and regional planning from Georgia Tech’s College of Architecture in an accelerated four year program.
Though the metropolitan area is far from the pristine wetlands in Poland, living in Atlanta is like "living in a laboratory,” Juergensmeyer said.