It’s time for the BLM to have its own comprehensive land conservation system: a National Desert and Grassland System. Congress should place appropriate BLM lands into a system of national deserts and national grasslands similar to the National Forest System.Read More
Born in 1946 out of a merger between the federal General Land Office (est. 1812) and the U.S. Grazing Service (est. 1934), the present-day Bureau of Land Management (BLM) reflects its parentage by continuing to serve as partner or handmaiden to exploiter interests. For most of its history the BLM has been a mere custodian of the federal public lands left over from the great historic giveaways to homesteaders, railroads, loggers, ranchers, and miners, and after the creation of the national forests, wildlife refuges, parks, and military reservations. However, these remaining public lands are valuable for wildlife habitat, watershed protection, carbon sequestration, and recreation and should no longer be left in the domain of the extractive industries.Read More
National parks are commonly called our nation’s best idea. (Actually, public lands, which include the national parks, are America’s best idea.) Today the National Park System has 413 units (which you can see in a map that is interactive or one that is suitable for framing), all established by or through an Act of Congress. Besides the 59 national parks, there are 84 national monuments, 19 national preserves, 50 national historic parks, 78 national historic sites, 1 international historic site, 4 national battlefield parks, 9 national military parks, 11 national battlefields, 1 national battlefield site, 30 national memorials, 18 national recreation areas, 10 national seashores, 4 national lakeshores, 15 national rivers, 2 national reserves, 4 national parkways, 3 national trails, and 11 sundry other units. The diversity of designations reflects the diversity of natural, historical, and cultural features being protected for this and future generations.Read More
Most change comes through funerals. As the rabid opponents of national monuments shuffle off their mortal coils, the next generation will come to see the benefits of national parks. The history of public lands conservation in Utah is still being made.Read More
Of the 766 wilderness areas designated by Congress since 1964, 48 (6.2 percent or approximately 1 of every 16, not including island wildernesses) are freestanding wilderness areas smaller than 5,000 acres (see Table 1). While most such areas are in the eastern United States, four are in the wide-open American West: the Menagerie Wilderness (4,800 acres) and the Lower White River Wilderness (2,870 acres) in Oregon, Jumbo Springs (4,631 acres) in Nevada, and Baboquivari Peak (2,040 acres) in Arizona.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
On August 25, 2016, President Obama proclaimed an expansion of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument by 375,278,034 acres, making it the largest marine reserve in the world at 493,759,275 acres (~1.3-million nautical miles). (The name is pronounced Pa-pa-hah-now-mo-koo-ah-keh-ah and derives from an ancient Hawaiian creation story.)
Until relatively recently, no president had applied the Antiquities Act of 1906 to any large amount of salt water. A few national monuments include seawater associated with islands and adjacent lands, but no national monument had been proclaimed that included a lot of ocean.
The opportunity for U.S. seascape-scale conservation exists thanks to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which came into force in 1994. Though the United States has yet to sign it, our country nonetheless views the treaty as settled international law, which recognizes a United States Exclusive Economic Zone (USEEZ) that extends up to 200 nautical (230.2 statute) miles (nm) off the 13,000-mile coastline of the United States.Read More
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).Read More
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.
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More