Andy Kerr

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

The Elliott State Forest Will Not Be Privatized—But Will It Be Saved?

The Elliott State Forest Will Not Be Privatized—But Will It Be Saved?

The existential crisis for public lands conservationists has passed, but the Elliott State Forest is not yet fully in the hands of conservation. It all depends on where the lands end up and the purposes for which they are bought out of the Common School Fund. Perhaps in a later blog post I will explore the strengths and weaknesses of each of the three approaches and offer up what I think is the best solution.

Read More

Will Trump Dump National Monuments?

President Trump signed an executive order on April 26, 2017, that directs Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to review sixty-two of the last three presidents’ national monument proclamations, dating back to 1996. The review will result in a final report in four months that “shall include recommendations, Presidential actions, legislative proposals, or other actions consistent with law.”

The administration is interested in either totally abolishing, reducing in size, and/or weakening the protections for national monuments. Those prerogatives belong to Congress. If Trump tries, he’ll get a multitude of tweets saying, “See you in court!”

Read More

National Heritage Areas: Combining the Conservation of Nature, History, and Culture with Local Economic Development

National Heritage Areas: Combining the Conservation of Nature, History, and Culture with Local Economic Development

National heritage areas (NHAs) are a way to conserve and restore important natural, historical, and cultural resources for this and future generations while at the same time generating local economic activity through tourism. NHAs are established by Congress but administered by local entities with the assistance of the National Park Service.

Read More

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