Andy Kerr

Conservationist, Writer, Analyst, Operative, Agitator, Strategist, Tactitian, Schmoozer, Raconteur

Judge John B. Waldo: Oregon’s John Muir

Judge John B. Waldo: Oregon’s John Muir

Republican legislator, lawyer, chief justice, granger, sportsman, conservationist, explorer, and scholar John B. Waldo read and quoted Thoreau, Shakespeare, Emerson, Aurelius, Goethe, and Wordsworth. He made twenty-seven summer sojourns in Oregon’s Cascades. From July through September and from Mount Hood to Mount Shasta, Waldo explored and was nourished and educated by Oregon’s mountain wildlands.

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Statehood and Federal Public Lands: A Deal is a Deal

In 2012, the Utah State Legislature enacted the Transfer of Public Lands Act (TPLA), which demanded that the federal government hand over the state’s ~30 million acres of national wildlife refuges, national forests, and other public lands by the end of 2014.

This did not happen, but Utah is still trying. It seeks to set up a legal test case, and the legislature has appropriated $4.5 million of the $14 million it will likely cost to do so. In 2010, Utah considered trying to use its power of eminent domain to seize the federal land. When it realized that it would have to pay real money for the land it condemned—and perhaps also remembering that the federal government has all the nuclear weapons—Utah decided to seek a judicial ruling instead.

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A National System of National Recreation Areas

National forest ranger districts are so 20th century. They were created in an era when “multiple use” meant logging and grazing—other uses be damned—as local economies were based on exploiting nature. However, in the 21st century, local communities can make more money by helping people enjoy natural values on public lands....

With declining commodity industries and a growing outdoor recreation industry—as well as increased concern for watersheds, ecosystems, and native species—it’s time for a 21st-century management structure for the nation’s national forests. It’s time to replace Forest Service ranger districts with national recreation areas (NRAs) as the fundamental management unit—and to do the same for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

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Federal Public Lands Under Trump or Clinton

Presidents matter for federal public lands. Let’s examine the policy positions, party platforms and statements of the two major party candidates....

Now more than ever, one has to rise above principle and do the right thing for the Earth and its human and non-human inhabitants by voting for Hillary Clinton.

 

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Presidents and National Monuments Mostly by the Numbers

As presidents near leaving office, more of their thoughts turn to legacy. How will history remember them? Though the history of conservation is but a fraction of the history of the nation, let alone the world, it matters to most presidents. Congress has empowered a president to be able to do great good for the conservation of nature and history for this and future generations.

In 1906, Congress enacted into law the Antiquities Act, giving the President authority to:

declare by public proclamation historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated on land owned or controlled by the Federal Government to be national monuments.

As of this writing, most, but not all, presidents have issued a total of 241 proclamations pursuant to the act. A total of 703,260,263 acres (~1.1 million square miles) have been so protected for this and future generations. While 59% of this total acreage was proclaimed by Democratic presidents, it’s not quite as bipartisan over time as it may appear.

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Public Lands in the United States

The United States of America encompasses a very large amount of land, both what is generally considered dry land and even more covered by salt water. Approximately 40% of the dry land (31% federal and 9% states) and essentially 100% of the undersea lands are owned mostly by the government of the United States with the rest being owned by coastal states. Of all the US lands—submerged and not—the federal or state government owns 73% of them.

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The Maine Woods: A National Treasure in Need of National Protection

Pulp has passed. Forests are more valuable for watershed, habitat and recreation than for wood or development. The Maine Woods are no longer mainly for wood.

A Maine Woods National Monument would be the embryo of a Maine Woods National Park that could grow in size and allow the trees to again grow as tall as they used to.

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The Constitutionality of Federal Public Lands

Ammon Bundy has recently testified that they expected to be charged with trespass, from which they could then mount a defense that what they did was not illegal because the federal government owning the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge (and almost all other public lands) was unconstitutional.

Based on the settled case law surrounding public lands and the facts surrounding their occupation, insanity—temporary or otherwise—may be a better defense.

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Why Public Lands

Public lands provide society with goods and services that the private sector is unable to provide.

America’s best idea, national parks—including its highest refinement, wilderness—is contingent on the underlying lands being in public ownership. So are somewhat lower—but nonetheless quite beneficial—refinements such as wild and scenic rivers, national monuments, national recreation areas, national wildlife refuges, national conservation areas, national trails and other specially designated areas.

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No Room for Energy Production on Public Lands

If elected president, Hillary Clinton would “expand renewable energy on public lands.” With all due respect Madam President, whoa!

While producing energy on public lands reduces our addiction to foreign oil—and if renewable energy, reduce the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions—energy exploitation also ruins the values for which most Americans hold public lands dear.

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A Weekly Exploration of Federal Public Lands

The intent of this Public Lands blog is to each week give the reader a ~750-word exposition on some aspect of federal or state public lands in the United States. Some weeks you will a find a piece that goes rather deep and serves as a useful (I hope) backgrounder on particular areas, matters or issues surrounding public lands. Other weeks, you’ll find a topical piece addressing a public lands controversy of the moment.

The rest of this maiden column summarizes why I’m qualified to write it.

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