Michelle Rau, an Environmental Studies undergraduate student, was selected to participate in a commemorative conference observing the 200th anniversary of the creation of the General Land Office (GLO) and the 150th anniversary of the Homestead Act. The Center of the American West is collaborating with the Public Lands Foundation, an organization composed of retired Bureau of Land Management employees, to host “The Nation Possessed: The Conflicting Claims on America’s Public Lands” will take place in Boulder, Colorado, on September 11-14, 2012.
Michelle, a double major in Environmental Studies (BS) and Planning, Public Policy & Management (BA), went through a rigorous application process. Michelle was accepted as one of only thirty student representatives to be part of a Student Congress, a central element of the conference.
She has a multifaceted and passionate interest in public lands management. Her great-grandparents immigrated to America from Russia in the 1890s and acquired land through the Homestead Act. “My family still farms on this land today and their traditions and livelihood center on farming,” says Michelle. When she moved from Los Angeles to Eugene to pursue her college education, she was impressed with the urban growth boundaries and the ways that city planning was implemented in Oregon; as she studied, she developed a strong interest in using policy to balance the interests of the natural environment with those of developed areas.
Most recently, Michelle spent seven months working with a local non-profit, Forests Today and Forever, an organization that promotes forest stewardship through education, and developed her interest in public lands management. “I have been working on a tree farm that borders Bureau of Land Management lands and have learned about the complexities associated with multiple natural resource management,” she explains, and adds, “My primary career goal is to reduce the communication gap between scientists and policy makers. These two fields speak in different languages, yet very frequently have the same goals.”
When asked what she is most excited about for the conference:
I am excited to meet other students from across the nation who are similarly interested in land use management and policy. It will be interesting to hear different viewpoints from people of different geographical backgrounds. I am also very excited to be in the company of many important land management professionals such as Ken Salazar, the Secretary of the Interior; Bob Abbey the former Director of the BLM; and Johanna Wald, the Senior Attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, as well as professors, and community members. I am thrilled for the opportunity to collaborate with a wide array of individuals passionate about land management. I can’t wait to see the results of the conference. The goal is to produce a recommendation report on the future of public lands.