Public Land: Everyone's Land

Topics: Forest ecology, United States National Forest, Policy Pages: 8 (2481 words) Published: January 9, 2013

Identify the most significant challenges facing policymakers in resolving, identifying, and/or dealing with this problem.

Describe two different perspectives that contribute to our understanding of the environmental challenge that you have identified by evaluating the values and ethics that have contributed to the manifestation of the environmental problem.

Provide a policy recommendation

must reflect an understanding of the legal environment and regulatory mechanism relevant to the policy area under consideration, as well as the important laws and institutions that have significantly affected the policy area


Bob Jones

Ashford University


The very concept of “public land” is one in flux – after all, what we bequeath to future generations also provides a carbon and resource surplus, local recreational opportunities, and quality of life advantages that allow current private entrepreneurial interests, schools, tax bases, and communities to flourish. Policies relating to our forests therefore stride ambiguous definitional priorities: jobs and owls are never 100% separate and discrete. In this paper I propose that policy scholarship regarding public land use in Western United States’ forests has followed an anti-factionalist path, but not the typical path of compromise related to economic versus environmental concerns; instead, that scholarship has treated public land use as a more complex mesh of public and private land concerns that policymakers would be wise to follow.

The governmental and social rights to the grand ephemera of earth – air, water, and land itself -- are significant issues in the battle to control resources for money, livelihood, conservation, or aesthetic purposes (Dale, 2011). Rights are issues in that someone with more power grants them, and they are in perennial danger of being taken away. While the water flows indefinitely, control of it is political and laden with power relationships. Balancing these private interests with the public good is a tightrope walked by all environmental policymakers. Someone must make these decisions, and likewise someone must manage that which is collectively owned, or these resources disappear. In the United States, a system of public and private land seems to delineate individual interests from collective ones. However, the air, water, and land mock these borders, and damage inflicted upon public land comes knocking on private landowners’ doors. Further, public lands are often used for private enterprise. For example, the Bureau of PUBLIC POLICY, EVERYONE’S LAND 3 Land Management manages grazing lands. The National Forest Service plans timber cuts in our forests. Only wilderness areas are meant to be “virgin” spaces – places where wilderness runs wild. Of course, controlled burns, fire management, and public safety trump “nature” even here (Dale, 2011). Treating public and private rights as separate is a common rhetorical tactic in magazine and newspaper coverage of environmental debates, which often feature private businessmen pitted against activist students in a circular debate about who owns communal resources and who can take from them. In the 1980s, the plight of the spotted owl took center stage as an example of this wrangling. Environmentalists, according to the media imagination, wanted owls alive at the cost of human children whose parents lived difficult working class lives in the first place. Their legacy of a forest full of treasured biodiversity was enough to stop the saws. On the other side, ideologies of human wealth-building, economic...
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