Allison Westfahl Kong ’10 has won the second annual student writing competition of the New York State Bar Association’s Committee on Animals and the Law. The honor, following a review of all the submissions by a panel of attorneys and other professionals involved with animal law, includes a $1,000 prize.

In her paper, “Improving the Protection of Species Endangered in the United States by Means of a Revision of the Distinct Population Segment (DPS) Policy,” Kong says that the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which is intended to prevent the global extinction of species and informs the DPS Policy used by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service to determine whether domestic populations are threatened or endangered, doesn’t go far enough. She argues that “there are many compelling reasons to protect domestic populations of particular species” with disproportionately low numbers in the U.S., “even if these species are abundant elsewhere,” and that the DPS Policy should be changed accordingly. Such an alteration, she says, would still be consistent with the ESA’s goals.

Kong became interested in her topic when she took Dean and Lawrence King Professor of Law Richard Revesz’s Environmental Law class. Revesz’s casebook included the case National Association of Home Builders v. Norton, in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that Arizona’s cactus ferruginous pygmy owl population was not of sufficient significance to the overall species (which had abundant numbers in Mexico) to warrant protection. Revesz advised Kong on her paper, which has been accepted in expanded form for publication as a note in the NYU Law Review. Kong, senior articles editor of that journal, is also a Furman Scholar and a Butler Scholar (ranked among the top ten students after four semesters). She graduated summa cum laude from Claremont McKenna College in 2007 with a B.A. in mathematics and history, and was named best overall student in both majors. During her undergraduate career, Kong advised the city council of Claremont, California, on public policies relating to parks, community facilities, and services such as urban planning, recycling, and refuse collection.

Posted on August 28, 2009