public lands

The climate bill and oil and gas leasing

Provision in big climate bill that mandates oil and gas leasing on federal lands has limited reach

The big news in climate policy this past week was Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) signing off on a deal with the Democratic Senate Majority leader, Chuck Schumer, to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on climate investments – the bill is catchily called the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.  I’ll take a look at the …

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Protecting the federal estate

Understanding the Property Clause’s location in Article IV clarifies the power of Congress and the federal government to protect public lands

In my previous blog post, I discussed how the location of the Property Clause in Article IV can help answer key debates about congressional versus executive power under the Clause, as well as federal versus state power under the Clause.  Here I want to draw on the principles I developed in the prior blog post: …

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Taking Article IV Seriously

How “horizontal federalism” can help us understand federal power over the public lands

Can the President unilaterally end fossil fuel leasing on federal lands?  Or does this policy decision require Congressional intervention?  Can the President unilaterally terminate existing National Monuments that protect federal public lands from development?  Or does this policy decision also require Congressional intervention?  Does federal law preempt state law on federal lands?  Or does the …

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Our Common Ground

New book on history of federal public lands is an essential contribution

America’s public lands are a national, and even international, treasure.  Over a quarter of the United States is owned and managed by the federal government.  Public lands provide recreational opportunities for all Americans.  They provide valuable habitat for species and ecosystems.  They provide important natural resources, such as timber and minerals, that are both important …

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Clarifying the Congressional Review Act

The Ninth Circuit rules on the preclusive effect of a CRA disapproval in a wilderness protection case.

Soon after Trump took office, Republicans used the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to overturn sixteen Obama-era regulations. If they win control of the government in 2024, they’ll undoubtedly do the same thing to Biden regulations. It behooves us, then, to understand the effect of these legislative interventions. A Ninth Circuit ruling last week in a …

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Before Yellowstone: The Arkansas Origin of National Parks

In a forgotten incident, Congress set aside Hot Springs in 190 years ago.

The origins of the national park system is usually traced back Lincoln’s 1864 signature of the Yosemite Grant Act.  But Congress had actually had the idea of protecting extraordinary places over thirty years earlier, in Arkansas of all places. Hot Springs isn’t high on the list of American places to see, which may be one …

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Science article argues that conservation should be allowed to pay its own way on public lands

The law too often restricts resource rights on public lands to extraction activities and precludes conservation

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) auction in February, 2016, for oil and gas drilling rights near Arches National Park was unremarkable. The high bidder, Tempest Exploration Co. LLC, paid $2,500 for the 1,120 acre lease by credit card and began paying annual rental fees. What soon did prove remarkable, though, was the revelation that …

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Deja vu all over again

Remember the Sagebrush Rebellion and the County Supremacy Movement? They were attempts in the 1970s-80s and 1990s, respectively, by state and local governments in the west to assert control over federal lands. They didn’t make any legal progress because of the pesky Supremacy and Property Clauses of the US Constitution, which declare that the federal …

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