Andy Kerr

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

The National Wildlife Refuge System, Part 3: Time to Double Down

The National Wildlife Refuge System, Part 3: Time to Double Down

During this Trumpian Quadrennium, with a Congress hostile to conservation, the chances of expanding the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS) approach zero. Yet the need to double the size of the system has never been greater, so now is the time to start.

Read More

The National Wildlife Refuge System, Part 2: Historical Evolution and Current Challenges

Our beloved National Wildlife Refuge System arose with little systematic thought. From President Theodore Roosevelt’s proclamations of the first “national bird reservations,” many areas have been established under a multitude of names (wildlife refuges, wildlife ranges, game ranges, wildlife management areas, waterfowl production areas, and more). What they all have in common is that their primary purpose is the conservation of native animals.

Read More

The National Wildlife Refuge System, Part 1: An Overview

The National Wildlife Refuge System, Part 1: An Overview

The National Wildlife Refuge System didn’t get fully formed until 1997, when Congress passed a law that says the system brings together “all lands, waters, and interests therein administered by the Secretary as wildlife refuges, areas for the protection and conservation of fish and wildlife that are threatened with extinction, wildlife ranges, game ranges, wildlife management areas, or waterfowl production areas.” The same law states that the mission of the NWRS is to “administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management, and where appropriate, restoration of the fish, wildlife, and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.”

Read More

Why Wilderness?

Why wilderness? Why the hell not wilderness?! As Edward Abbey proclaimed in The Journey Home, “The idea of wilderness needs no defense. It only needs more defenders.” Unfortunately, the default setting of our Western society is that nature does not have value unless we can dig it up, cut it down, graze it off, plow it under, drain it dry, make it wet, or haul it away. Even wilderness defenders need information and arguments with which to persuade an increasingly online—and out of touch—public about the importance of and threats to wilderness.

Read More

Privatizing Federal Public Lands in Western Oregon

Privatizing Federal Public Lands in Western Oregon

In its recently revised resource management plans for western Oregon, the Bureau of Land Management has identified 290 parcels of federal public lands, ranging in size from 0.01 to 440.2 acres and totaling 18,458.95 acres, as suitable for disposal. Although disposing of 0.7 percent of the approximately 2,600,000 acres of western Oregon BLM public lands may not seem like a big deal, many of these parcels have high public values.

Read More

National Forests in the Western United States: A Magnificent Start and More to Establish

Finally on March 30, 1891, Congress enacted the Forest Reserve Act, which allowed the president to proclaim national forests from lands in the federal public domain. President Benjamin Harrison (1889–1893), who signed the legislation, eventually proclaimed forest reserves totaling 13 million acres, including the nation’s first: Yellowstone Park Timber Land Reserve (today, mostly the Shoshone National Forest in Wyoming).

President Grover Cleveland (1893–1897) created more forest reserves totaling 25.8 million gross acres (not all within the reserve boundary was federal public domain). President William McKinley (1897–1901) followed by proclaiming 7 million acres. President Theodore Roosevelt (1901–1909) established an additional 150 million acres of what would become known as national forests....

Thanks, Benny, Grover, and, most especially, Teddy!

However, more forest lands should be included in the National Forest System. This includes 2.6-million acres of generally forested Bureau of Land Management holdings in western Oregon. It includes other generally-forested BLM lands in eastern Oregon, Montana, Alaska and elsewhere. It includes large amounts of private industrial and small private timberlands that could be acquired from willing sellers.

 

Read More

Converting Private Timberlands Back to Public Forestlands

Converting Private Timberlands Back to Public Forestlands

History has shown we cannot rely on the private sector to conserve forests, protect drinking water, and provide other public values, including wildlife habitat, recreation opportunities, and scenic views. The private values of timberlands are in conflict with these public values and are driven by a desire to maximize profit, return on investment, and net present value. If the public wants to have those public values, these conservation responsibilities must be borne mostly by the public—not the private—sector.

Read More

Remembering U.S. Senator Richard L. Neuberger, Oregon Conservationist

Remembering U.S. Senator Richard L. Neuberger, Oregon Conservationist

Given Oregon’s historically close ties to the timber industry, it is hard to imagine that a U.S. senator from Oregon could be a co-sponsor of the original legislation that became the Wilderness Act of 1964. Yet Senator Richard Lewis Neuberger was no ordinary U.S. senator.

Read More

Premembering Bob Packwood, Oregon Conservationist

Premembering Bob Packwood, Oregon Conservationist

The Snake River in Hells Canyon would be dammed today if not for former Senator Bob Packwood (R-OR). The French Pete watershed would not have been returned to its rightful place in the Three Sisters Wilderness if not for Packwood.

No, Packwood is not dead yet, but he is in his ninth decade (and with all his marbles, the last time I saw him). I am implementing a new policy to remember some Oregon public lands conservation greats before they, in words from Hamlet’s "To be, or not to be" soliloquy, “have shuffled off this mortal coil mortal coil.” It is an interesting exercise and a challenge to write a remembrance of someone not yet passed. I’ll call it a premembrance.

Read More

National Forests in the Eastern United States: An Incomplete Legacy

National Forests in the Eastern United States: An Incomplete Legacy

Take a gander at your favorite statewide maps, on paper or in Google Maps, and you may be left with the impression that those green polygons labeled National Forest are indeed solid expanses of national forest. In the West and Alaska, mostly yes; in the East, not so much.

Only 54 percent of the lands within the official boundaries of eastern national forests are federal public lands. Compare that to 90 percent of western national forest lands and 95 percent of Alaskan national forest lands. Nationally, only 83 percent of the Forest Service green on maps is Forest Service land. 

Read More

The National Wild and Scenic Rivers System: Room for More Streams

Alas, Congress adjourned at the end of 2016 without enacting the Oregon Wildlands Act into law. We expect the bill to be reintroduced in the next Congress but are not optimistic about its passage. But while the congressional conservation pipeline may be clogged, it is not full. Now is the time for more legislation to be introduced to designate more wild and scenic rivers in Oregon.

Read More

Reigniting the Pacific Northwest Timber Wars by Logging More Old Growth: Bring It On, President Trump!

At 61 and with acrophobia, I’m no use in climbing old trees to defend them from the chainsaw. But a younger generation of activists will sit, en masse, in those threatened old-growth trees, in front of bulldozers, and/or in appropriate offices. And if it comes to that, I’m happy to get arrested in offices of the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Republican Party, the timber industry, or elected officials.

Bring it on, President Trump. Bring it on, Big Timber. Bring it on, Rep. Walden. Go ahead, make my day: reignite the Pacific Northwest timber wars.

Let the battle be joined, as nothing less is at stake than the lands and forests we leave to future generations.

Read More

A Congressional Conservation Agenda for the Twenty-First Century

With President-elect Trump having won the Electoral College and the Republicans being in the majority of both houses of the coming 115th (2017-2018) Congress, the public lands conservation community is going to be on defense like never before.

It was either the Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz (1780–1831) or the Manassa Mauler, William Harrison "Jack" Dempsey (1895–1983) who famously said that the best defense is a good offense. The conservation community needs to be for good things while we are opposing bad things.

Though we’ve burned through one-sixth of the current century, Congress has yet to enact any sweeping and bold public lands conservation legislation in the new millennium. There’s still time though, and a crying need.

You may be questioning my grip on reality at this moment, given the recent election. While I am quite cognizant of the dark times that await us, I’m equally aware that it often takes several Congresses (two-year terms) to enact sweeping and bold legislation into law....

There is no time like the present to begin to change political reality.

 

Read More

National Monuments: Long-Term National Versus Short-Term Local Interests

The people of Boston might make more money chopping up Old Ironsides into souvenirs and leasing out the space on the water to a floating casino, but they can’t. The oldest commissioned ship in the United States Navy doesn’t belong to them alone. The people of Washington DC might make more money if the National Mall were converted to condominiums, but they can’t. The nation’s lawn doesn’t belong to them alone.

Nor do the nation’s federal public lands belong to locals alone.

Read More

A Federal Public Lands Grazing “Right”: No Such Animal

One of my obsessions in life is to disabuse any and all that holders of permits (or leases) to graze livestock of the federal public lands have a “right” to do so....  Federal grazing permits/leases do not convey “grazing rights” on federal public lands. Grazing permits issued by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Forest Service allow the permit/lease holder the privilege to use publicly owned forage on federal public lands. The permits do not confer a right to permittees/lessees to graze public lands.... If the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management revokes or does not renew a federal grazing permit or lease, it is not a [constitutional] “taking.” The withdrawal of a giving is not a taking.

Read More

A Stage Theory of Elevating the Status of Federal Public Lands

If one rationally considered the probability of succeeding at elevating a discrete piece of federal public land to the status of a congressionally designated national what-have-you area (wilderness, wild and scenic river, national park, national monument, national recreation area, national wildlife refuge, or such), one might never embark on the voyage. One usually has to overcome an entrenched establishment of industry, locals, and government that doesn’t want things to change. Yet, conservationists proceed anyway, and if they are smart, clever, and persistent (with emphasis on the latter) enough, they do find success. It often takes a generation to change the world, or even a part of it.

Read More

The November 2016 Election: Processing the Five Stages, Then Moving On

There are those days where one is reminded, by a proverbial kick in the gut, that life is not fair. Such was the day of the general election of November 2016.

I take solace in the fact that this was not an election about public lands or climate change. Nonetheless, the consequences to public lands and climate change will likely be grave....

The ultimate backstop for public lands and climate change is the American electorate. I am confident that most care about public lands and enough care about climate change so that we can persevere and—in the end—be victorious on both

Read More