Public Land Policy after the Trump Administration: Is This a Turning Point?
Thursday, February 27, 2020
Professor John Leshy
University of California-Hastings College of Law
Since the Civil War, a strong, bipartisan consensus has developed in support of the national government’s owning large amounts of land. Over the last half-century, that consensus has favored managing more and more of these lands primarily for inspiration, education, human-powered recreation, and environmental conservation.
The Trump Administration has moved aggressively to open previously protected public lands to fossil fuel and other forms of intensive development and to roll back protections in a host of other ways, including starving and shrinking the agencies that manage these lands.
Is this the harbinger of a fundamental change in the trajectory of public land policy, or is it an aberration? Professor Leshy will be drawing upon material from his much-anticipated book, forthcoming from Yale University Press, with the working title Our Common Ground: A History of America’s Public Lands.
Professor Mary Wood, Philip H. Knight Professor, Faculty Director, Environmental and Natural Resources Law Center, University of Oregon Law
In face of irreversible climate tipping points and the failure of statutory law to control carbon dioxide pollution, youth around the world are suing their governments to act before it is too late. The campaign, called Atmospheric Trust Litigation, recently won a landmark ruling from a federal district court declaring a constitutional right to a stable climate system. Professor Wood discusses this litigation in the context of climate urgency and the federal government’s policy to spur production of fossil fuels.
Bill Hedden, Executive Director, Grand Canyon Trust
Bill Hedden provided a report from the field, a description from an activist and stakeholder of what it’s like to live surrounded by deep, wild public lands. The lecture included a personal description of what the public lands can mean to an individual life. Followed by a broader scope and look ahead related to public lands issues, asking how our societal relationships with these lands must evolve in the 21st century. Hedden believes it is necessary to speak in new ways about these matters at a time when the very concept of public lands is once again under assault from the Congress and from state legislatures, attacked through well-funded disinformation campaigns, and, if all the rest isn’t clear enough, the land itself occupied by armed militias—our inheritance under threat from people who have not felt lucky to earn a living off of lands and resources belonging to all of us, but who feel resentful and determined to take the lands for themselves. Hedden notes the American people are in danger of losing something of inestimable value without really knowing what it is and, more importantly, without having a vision of what role this globally unique endowment might play in helping us find a way to live in harmony with our ever more stressed planet.
Mike Connor, Deputy Secretary, United States Department of the Interior
The Distinguished Lecture Series was designed as a cooperative venture between the Getches-Wilkinson Center and the Colorado Natural Resources, Energy, & Environmental Law Review, to bring to the University of Colorado each year a distinguished figure in the fields of natural resource, energy, and environmental law and policy. The Annual Distinguished Lecture Series provides a forum for thought–leadership, allowing the Distinguished Lecturer to reflect on their experience and provide insights on the current state of natural resources, energy, and the environment. The articles and transcripts resulting from these lectures will be published in the Review.
Bruce Babbitt, Former Governor of AZ and Secretary of the Interior
Bruce Babbitt is a lifelong environmentalist and outdoorsman. Babbitt served as Arizona Governor from 1976-1987, successfully securing several wilderness designations. As Secretary of the Interior during the Clinton Administration, Babbitt launched a new era in wildlife protection by reintroducing wolves into Yellowstone National Park. Later, he reintroduced the California Condor to the Grand Canyon region. Babbitt also spearheaded Clinton’s ambitious program to protect expansive areas of federal lands as national monuments under the Antiquities Act. Clinton created 20 new monuments and expanded three existing monuments totaling nearly 8 million acres. The creation of these monuments protected some of the most contested and magnificent western landscapes, and this era stands as one of the highest points in conservation history.