Environmental controversies are often framed as conflicts between environmentalist and antienvironmentalist positions. The underlying dimensions of ethics and justice tend to be overlooked. This article seeks to integrate insights from environmental ethics and sociological observations through a case study of a watershed conflict. A controversy emerged in the 1990s when residents of the New York City (NYC) watershed filed a lawsuit to block NYC‚Äôs proposed regulations for the land surrounding the streams and reservoirs that supply NYC‚Äôs drinking water. The conflict was resolved after NYC agreed to provide economic development funds to the watershed towns in exchange for accepting the regulations. An analysis of interviews with NYC watershed town supervisors reveals that the conflict was resolved because underlying competing theories of justice were addressed. This contradicts the popular narrative that an environmental conflict can be resolved when competing parties come to the realization that natural ecosystems provide valuable water-purification services.
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