Andy Kerr

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

The Columbia River Gorge Is Dead; Long Live the Columbia River Gorge—Unless Greg Walden Has His Way

The Columbia River Gorge Is Dead; Long Live the Columbia River Gorge—Unless Greg Walden Has His Way

In 1986, Congress enacted the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Act to, among other things, “establish a national scenic area to protect and provide for the enhancement of the scenic, cultural, recreational, and natural resources of the Columbia River Gorge.” In 2017, Representative Greg Walden (R-2nd-OR) proposes to throw it out the window.

Read More

The Columbia River Gorge Is Dead; Long Live the Columbia River Gorge—Unless Greg Walden Has His Way

Everyone—including many a card-carrying conservationist—just needs to take a deep breath. Yes, there was a relatively large forest fire mostly on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge. However, the clearing of the smoke gave proof through the day that our gorge was still there. The Columbia River Gorge was not “destroyed,” “lost,” “gone up in smoke,” “consumed,” or “dead,” as suggested by generally hyperbolic media reports by generally hysterical reporters, often quoting generally hysterical gorge lovers.... Neither volcanic eruptions nor forest fires can be prevented—and that’s a beautiful thing.

Read More

Precedent for Secretary Zinke’s Gut-Job on the National Monuments

Precedent for Secretary Zinke’s Gut-Job on the National Monuments

The Trump administration is moving ahead with its intention to review and rescind national monument designations for some public lands. Now a leaked memorandum from Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke shows that he will be pointing to unproclamations of portions of national monuments by previous presidents as precedent.... None of the unproclamations were ever litigated, so there has never been a judicial determination of whether those reputable legal scholars are indeed correct. Now, however, if President Trump acts on Secretary Zinke’s recommendations, the time will come for such a test.

Read More

Dancing on the Dark Side: Wyden Guts His Own National Recreation Area System Bill

Dancing on the Dark Side: Wyden Guts His Own National Recreation Area System Bill

Senator Ron Wyden had a visionary and bold bill that would establish a National Recreation Area System. I strongly supported that legislative provision in a post to this Public Lands Blog.... I heaped praise on the Wyden-Blumenauer bill that would have established generally strong conservation and management standards for new national recreation areas.... Now I must heap scorn on the Wyden-Bishop bill. The section that would establish a National Recreation Area System has been gutted of any significant conservation value and would only change the color on the map, but not management on the ground.

Read More

The Proposed Oregon Wildlands Act of 2017: Very Good but Not Yet Great

The Proposed Oregon Wildlands Act of 2017: Very Good but Not Yet Great

The congressional conservation pipeline is clogged. This is not because it is too full of fine legislation that would elevate the conservation status of certain public lands by designating wilderness, wild and scenic rivers, and other special protection areas, but because of the general dysfunction of Congress. (I hear it was worse before the Civil War.) One bill in that pipeline, sponsored by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and cosponsored by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), is the proposed Oregon Wildlands Act (OWA) of 2017 (S.1548, 115th Congress).

Read More

Closing the Mining Loophole for Wild and Scenic Rivers

Closing the Mining Loophole for Wild and Scenic Rivers

The federal public lands along more than half of the stream mileage in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System (NWSRS) can be mined, notwithstanding its congressional “protection” in wild and scenic rivers (WSRs). This is because the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968 (WSRA) established three different classifications for WSR segments—wild, scenic, and recreational—and banned mining or not based on the classifications. The WSRA needs fixing to offer uniform protection against mining in the NWSRS.

Read More

What’s in a Name? Preserving National Monuments Versus Antiquities Only

What’s in a Name? Preserving National Monuments Versus Antiquities Only

Back in the day, an Act of Congress, signed into law by President Theodore Roosevelt on June 8, 1906, soon after became commonly known as the “National Monument Act.” The more recently used name of the “Antiquities Act of 1906” must now be changed back to “National Monument Act of 1906.”

Read More

​​​​​​​Now That’s a Member of Congress!

​​​​​​​Now That’s a Member of Congress!

With some tweaks, the proposed Northern California Conservation and Recreation Act can be a great bill that when enacted into law will be a gift of enduring benefit to this and future generations of North Coast Californians, all Californians, and all Americans.

Read More

Owyhee Canyonlands: Faux Conservation and Pork Barrel Development

Owyhee Canyonlands: Faux Conservation and Pork Barrel Development

The Owyhee Canyonlands in Oregon are worthy of inclusion in the National Park System, administered by the National Park Service. Now that would be local economic development! The Owyhee Canyonlands are worthy of designation by Congress as an overarching national conservation area with underlying wilderness and wild and scenic rivers where appropriate. The Owyhee Canyonlands are not deserving of a half-assed mineral withdrawal that locks in other harmful uses.

Read More

The Westerman Bill: The Timber Industry’s Wet Dream

The Westerman Bill: The Timber Industry’s Wet Dream

Who wouldn’t want “resilient” (“able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions”) forests? With the name Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017 (H.R.2936, 115th Congress), what could possibly be wrong with this bill?

Everything. Judge neither a book by its cover nor a bill by its name.

Introduced by Representative Bruce Westerman (R-4th-AR), the bill is the timber industry’s wet dream legislation. In only his second term in Congress, Westerman has received more campaign contributions from Big Timber than any other industry.

The Westerman bill would legislate horrifically harmful public forest policy into law. 

Read More

Premembering Jim Weaver, Oregon Conservationist

Premembering Jim Weaver, Oregon Conservationist

As Jim Weaver quietly lives out his days in his beloved Oregon, this and future generations are in his debt because even though he represented the congressional district ranked highest for timber production in the nation, Weaver was a strong and tireless proponent of wilderness. There are wilderness areas today safely on the map, both inside and beyond his congressional district, because Jim Weaver stood up for the wild in Oregon in ways that no elected official had done before or has done since.

Read More

Numerous No-Take Marine Protected Areas Are Best for Commercial Fishing

Numerous No-Take Marine Protected Areas Are Best for Commercial Fishing

Marine protected areas (MPAs) in the United States exist to preserve our nation’s marine resources for this and future generations. About 26 percent of US marine waters are protected in some kind of MPA, defined ... as “any area of the marine environment that has been reserved by federal, state, territorial, tribal, or local laws or regulations to provide lasting protection for part or all of the natural and cultural resources therein.” A few MPAs known as marine reserves or no-take MPAs (amounting to about 3 percent of US waters) do not allow hunting, fishing, or collecting. The purpose of these no-take MPAs, which include marine national monuments, is to sustain fisheries and allow ecosystems to recover from environmental stressors.

Read More

Increased Wilderness Demand Calls for Increased Wilderness Supply

The demand for wilderness and parks is most likely to increase despite any best efforts to limit Oregon's, so what about the supply of wilderness?

Read More

The National Marine Sanctuary System, Actual and Potential

The National Marine Sanctuary System, Actual and Potential

National Marine Sanctuaries have been established to protect shipwrecks, whales, coral reefs, and other things marinely spectacular. “Sanctuary” is generally a misnomer, though, in that NMSs are not true sanctuaries from all extractive uses. Most NMSs were established by the secretary of commerce in the process mandated in the NMSA. Surviving this process means that most NMSs come out the other end of the bureaucratic meat grinder as compromised. While oil and gas exploitation is generally banned (sometimes NOAA doesn’t do so, but Congress always steps in and does so ban), other extractive uses are often not.

Read More

The Trump Administration Takes Out 17 International Biosphere Reserves

The United Nations recently announced twenty-three additions to the World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR). At the same council meeting where those additions were made, a request by the United States to remove seventeen was also approved. The Trump administration has trumpeted its general disdain for the United Nations, but this withdrawal was done without fanfare and so received very little press coverage.

Read More

The Coastal Barrier Resources System

The Coastal Barrier Resources Act of 1982 (CBRA) was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan, not known for being a flaming conservationist. Reagan may not have loved nature as much as he hated government bailouts—especially repeated government bailouts—but in the case of undeveloped areas along our coasts, the conservation of both nature and the federal treasury aligned. CBRA abets the conservation of undeveloped coastal barriers by restricting federal expenditures that encourage development, such as flood insurance.

Read More

Federal Systems for the Conservation and Enjoyment of Lands and Waters

Federal Systems for the Conservation and Enjoyment of Lands and Waters

Federal conservation systems are an unqualified social good and generally provide elevated protection and better management to important federal public lands and to resources and areas of high national significance. All existing federal conservation systems could be improved, and none should be weakened or discarded. Those that haven’t yet been codified by Congress need to be.

Read More