Natural Resources

In an earlier post I discussed famous Wisconsin conservationists and, as a small tribute, I mentioned by grandfather Gerald Czarnezki, a long time Milwaukee County Parks worker and naturalist who was a proud member of the first graduating class of the conservation education program at the Central State Teachers College at Stevens Point, now UW-Stevens Point.

In comments to that post, readers mentioned other noted Wisconsin environmentalists and one comment (admittedly made by my mother, who as a good mom actually reads my blog) felt compelled to list my dad, Joe Czarnezki, a former state senator who was the recipient of numerous “Clean 16” awards from Wisconsin’s Environmental Decade and author of the law which made Wisconsin the first state in the nation to legislatively ban toxic shot for waterfowl hunting.

Needless to say I am very proud of my family’s environmental history.

Since my family has now been implicated, in addition to my grandfather and father, I want to acknowledge the other conservationists/environmentalists/naturalists in the family.  I don’t want to embarrass my relatives, but I’m quite proud of them, and it should be of no surprise after reading this, how I ended up interested in environmental law and natural resources policy.  While I’m sure I’ll miss folks (and don’t want to list their names since they know who they are, and I don’t want to invade their privacy), my second cousin works in the Forestry Division of the WI Department of Natural Resources, my uncle is a former Alaskan Park Ranger who also worked at South Pole, and two of my dad’s cousins are, respectively, a former biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation and natural resources planner on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska.  Family members are welcome to add to the list, which likely includes an additional four generations of my grandfathers that were foresters and lumberjacks.

I’ve started watching the Ken Burns’ documentary The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, and today showed the first hour to my Natural Resources Law class.  The film brought to mind two initial thoughts.

First, after watching about John Muir, I considered all the environmentalists/conservationists/outdoorsmen from Wisconsin (where I grew up)–Muir, Aldo Leopold, Owen Gromme, Gaylord Nelson, and, of course, my grandfather Gerald Czarnezki (a proud member of the first graduating class of the conservation education program at the Central State Teachers College at Stevens Point, now UW-Stevens Point).   Of note, Wisconsin passed the Conservation Education Statute that required “adequate instruction in the conservation of natural resources” in order to be certified to teach science or social studies, and the state legislature also required that conservation of natural resources be taught in public elementary and high schools.

Second, it made me want to create a lists of national parks that I want to see for the first time or return to.  The list so far:

  1. Yosemite
  2. Grand Canyon
  3. Kenai Fjords
  4. Glacier Bay
  5. Return to Yellowstone and Grand Teton with family
  6. Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park
  7. Redwood
  8. Glacier

I’ll keep adding to the list, and will likely add more  once I finish the Burns documentary.  Please feel free to suggest some additions.  The Park Service does have an interactive map online.

Updated: I’ve added to my list– 9. Muir Woods, 10. Crater Lake, 11. Zion

Vermonter Rowan Jacobsen wrote the book Fruitless Fall about colony-collapse disorder in honeybees.  My favorite quote is:

Like any livestock, healthy bees require good pasture.  And that’s what fewer and fewer bees can find.  You might say that, like us, they’re suffering from “suburban disease”: more roads, big-box stores, and developments, fewer wildflowers. (Rowan Jacobsen, Fruitless Fall 151 (2008))

Now this article suggests that scientists may be getting closer to solving the mystery of colony collapse disorder.  But while we may learn the scientific cause (e.g., virus, fungus), I think we must still address what factors might contribute to the honeybee populations inability to fight off the disease.

See article here.

A student emailed me the article “‘The Buzzard of Backcountry’ Strikes It Rich in National Parks“. It’s about a wealthy real estate developer, Thomas Chapman, who built a luxury home on private land that sits within a national park. (Many plots of private lands are surrounded by national parks and forests.) Some argue that it harms the viewshed and aesthetic value of the park, while others view property rights as paramount. The article states, “With that, Mr. Chapman aims to make a point: Environmentalists and park managers can wring their hands about development tearing up the wild, but unless they’re willing to spend top dollar to preserve that land, they have no claim on it. And if they won’t buy it, he’s perfectly willing to develop it as a private playground for a wealthy buyer.”  The article points out that the federal government has allocated additional funds to buy private lands for preservation.  However, the article fails to point out that the federal government need not buy the land at all, and instead could limit private property rights on lands not owned by the federal government pursuant to the Property Clause of the U.S. Constitution, in the interest of protecting federal lands (see, e.g., Camfield v. U.S., 167 U.S. 518 (1897); Minnesota v. Block, 660 F.2d 1240 (8th Cir. 1981).  The federal limits of the Property Clause have not been tested legislatively to the same extent as the Commerce Clause.  There is no Lopez or Morrison yet in Property Clause jurisprudence.  Given Congress’ concern of overriding private property rights, and environmentalists’ concerns over how the current U.S. Supreme Court would react to sweeping legislation based on the Property Clause, I suspect limitations on private lands in national park boundaries will exist, but not with as strong of limitations as permissible under existing caselaw.

(The article does point out that the president could better preserve much federal land by declaring them national monuments.  West Wing fans know from this episode and my former students know from class that this is done pursuant to the Antiquities Act….my current students will learn this fact this week, unless they read my blog.)

I alread posted alot of Great Lakes protection, invasive species, and re-reversing the flow of the Chicago River.  See here and here.  Now here’s an article about invasive species coming through the St. Lawrence Seaway.

I earlier reviewed the first half of David Plouffe’s retelling of his experience as campaign manager in Obama’s 2008 Presidential Campaign.  I enjoyed the first half immensely, but I can’t say the same for the second.  I think there are two basic reasons for this.  First, the campaign strategy in the general election necessitated by the Electoral College (targeting key states) wasn’t as exciting as the delegate fight of the primary.  It’s true Obama expanded the map in states like North Carolina and Virginia, among others, but that’s really a story of the proper political climate and the money raised by Obama.  Second, again due to the political climate and, at the time, Obama’s unlikely candidacy, Hillary Clinton was a far more formidable opponent than John McCain.   I will say that I expect the 2012 Republican Primary to be almost as exciting as the 2008 Democratic fight, and the 2012 general election could be so entertaining that I could sell tickets to my neighbors without TVs (yes, very common in VT) if they want to watch the debates and election results.

Next on my reading list are Oracle Bones and River Town by Peter Hessler, both books about China, and I’m looking for a good book about the political/presidential history of federal natural resources.  Any sugggestions?

I’ve already written about the possibility of “re-reversing” the flow of the Chicago river back to its natural flow into Lake Michigan.  My University of Chicago alumni magazine just arrived with the article “Against the current” about a fellow Chicago grad who argues:

“[T]he city should update its sewage-treatmant systems, eliminating the need to send sewage away from the city.  Then Chicago could build permanent barriers to separate its water supply from southern tributaries, like the Mississippi, keeping unwanted fish [e.g., Asian carp] and invasive species from reaching the Great Lakes and solving future water-management problems.”

This is one of these interesting situations where a big fix would with big money could potentially solve three major problems: sewage, drinking water, Asian carp.  It’s like a complete remodel, rather than doing a few fix-it jobs.  While the arguments for this complete remodel of Chicago’s water system are strong, I’m not convinced the current economics allow for the politics to make this happen.

If this issue is of interest to you check out this article, Fish or frankenfish? FDA weighs altered salmon.  Also on my reading list is the book Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food.

UPDATE: Greenwire reports, “Consumer and environmental groups want genetically engineered salmon clearly labeled in the supermarket, but the Food and Drug Administration demurred yesterday, saying that such labeling is outside its rules.  FDA is considering whether to approve the sale of salmon that are engineered to grow to full size in half the time as their normal counterparts.  If approved, the fish would be the first genetically engineered animal to enter the food supply. FDA said its rules do not allow labeling of a food merely because it is genetically engineered, and there needs to be outside reasons such as modified taste, nutrition or safety to warrant the action.”

From the new, 4th edition of the Plater, Abrams,Graham, Heinzerling, Wirth & Hall casebook (Aspen).

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