Honoring Sally Jewell

Introduction of Secretary Jewell as Keynote Speaker Martz Winter Public Lands Symposium Getches-Wilkinson Center March 1, 2019 John Leshy, who served eight years as Interior Department Solicitor under Bruce Babbitt, has said in a reflective moment that the Solicitor has two duties: respect the institution and respect the people. And so it is for the Secretary, the highest officer of the Interior Department. Trustee for the tribes. Trustee for the rivers and the wildlife. Trustee for the land. Yes. Respect that high institution. Give it Continue reading →

Decolonization: Treaties, Resource Use, and Environmental Conservation

Introduction Since the 1970s, Indian policy has been guided by a federal commitment to tribal self-governance. The exact contours of this policy differ, but at a minimum, it is supposed to guide the approach of the federal government in its relations to tribes. Where state and private interests collide with tribal interests, the role of the federal government is often as a mediator of competing claims. In a sensitive and insightful piece, Professor Charles Wilkinson illustrates the way collaboration is supposed to work. He describes Continue reading →

Ecosystem services and Federal Public Lands: A Quiet Revolution in Natural Resources Management

The major federal public land management agencies (the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Park Service, Fish & Wildlife Service, and Department of Defense) have increasingly adopted a language that did not exist twenty-five years ago—the language of ecosystem services. Ecosystem services are the range of benefits that ecological resources provide to humans, from water purification and pollination to carbon sequestration and wildlife habitat. The scientific discipline advancing the ecosystem services framework arose in the mid-1990s and quickly became a central strategy for fusing ecology Continue reading →

Contingent Delisting

Introduction The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is among the strongest biodiversity protection laws anywhere in the world.[2] Its animating principle is that we, as a society, should do whatever it takes to prevent the extinction of the plants and animals that share our planet[3]—a moral intuition shared by most Americans.[4] As preventative medicine, the ESA has been a wild success. A recent study found that less than 1 percent of the 1,747 species listed as threatened or endangered have gone extinct.[5] So far, the Act Continue reading →

Not yet America’s Best Idea: Law, Inequality, and Grand Canyon National Park

Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst. . . . The national park idea, the best idea we ever had. –Wallace Stegner[2] [P]arks are not ‘America’s best idea’ . . . . The ‘best idea’ language has the potential to alienate more people than it attracts; . . . If asked to choose between the Grand Canyon or a landmark decision on Civil Rights that guarantees me equal protection under the law, Brown v. Board of Education wins Continue reading →

Bulldozing Infrastructure Planning and the Environment through Trump’s Executive Order 13807

The United States’ infrastructure is in trouble. Tunnels are falling apart,[2] and water pipes are lead-laced.[3] Independent analyses rate U.S. infrastructure an appalling D+,[4] and countless government studies confirm the need to mend, expand, and upgrade public infrastructure in a wide range of sectors.[5] Prominent progressive[6] and conservative[7] policymakers, from Donald Trump[8] to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez,[9] concur that America’s infrastructure must be transformed. So at the outset of the Trump Administration, many hoped Congress and the President could reach a bipartisan infrastructure agreement. Members of Congress Continue reading →

Streamlining or Steamrolling: Oil and Gas Leasing Reform on Federal Public Lands in the Trump Administration

President Donald Trump promised on the campaign trail that he would make American energy “great again.”[2] He explained that much of the nation’s energy resources remained untapped and that the country suffered from a self-inflicted wound. He said it was time to heal, and he had a plan: an “America First” energy plan.[3] Trump planned to eliminate excessive regulation, open up more federal land to oil and gas development, and bring back the coal industry.[4] This plan contained few details but many promises. President Trump Continue reading →

Reevaluating Environmental Citizen Suits in Theory and Practice

Citizen suits are frequently cited as an essential legal innovation by virtue of their capacity to provide a backstop to lax or ideologically antagonistic administrations. Drawing on data from fifteen years of litigation under two prominent environmental statutes, we find little evidence that citizen suits effectively serve this role in practice. Instead, we find that limited resources and institutional barriers strictly limit the number of citizen suits filed annually against the federal government under two of the most litigated environmental statutes, the National Environmental Policy Continue reading →