In September, Michelle Rau attended “The Nation Possessed: The Conflicting Claims on America’s Public Lands,” a conference put on by the Center of the American West and the Public Lands Foundation. Michelle, who graduated in June with a B.S. in Environmental Studies and a B.A. in Planning, Public Policy & Management, served as part of the conference’s preselected thirty-member Student Congress. She reports on her experiences:
“Since its inception as the General Land Office, the BLM has struggled to manage public lands due to conflicting claims over their uses. Recreation, grazing, ranching, mining, conservation, and restoration have long been competing uses on public lands. Now, energy production in the form of fracking, drilling, and renewables adds to the competition on the 245 million acres that are public lands. The goal of the conference was to bring together as many stakeholders as possible to come to a consensus on public land management.
“The conference sessions were very engaging. Besides hearing Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar speak, one of the highlights was a presentation from the Burning Man co-founder and the BLM employee who helped make sure that the festival could continue on BLM lands in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada. Who knew?
“The conference was a great opportunity for members of the Student Congress to put our skills into practice with ‘real world’ issues. We worked together to create a document outlining our recommendations for the BLM to consider over the next fifty years. We then presented the document in front of the conference, and the Round Table (key stakeholders at the conference) endorsed our declaration without any major amendments. The Public Lands Foundation has already created a committee to publicize our report and formalize the Student Congress into a recurring event for producing input for the BLM.
“I definitely plan to stay involved in public lands issues in the future. How could you not? Most Americans probably don’t know that one-third of the country is publicly owned. (Also little known is the fact that most countries hardly have public lands at all. Many European countries have minimal public lands; recreation on beautiful lands is thus reserved for those who can afford to pay to visit these privately-owned sites.) This statistic is most important today when energy production is increasing on public lands. Obama introduced this topic in the second presidential debate, so it’s an issue that will certainly become increasingly important.”
To read the three-page document of recommendations produced by the Student Congress, click here.
To read more about the conference and see photos, click here and scroll down.
To view a few more photos from the conference, click here (Michelle is directly to Ken Salazar’s right in the group photo).
Michelle Rau is currently doing an internship with the City of Eugene in the Planning Division.