The Stegner Center’s Research Fellows Program aims to facilitate informed dialogue and policy development by providing objective legal and policy analysis on the environmental and natural resource issues facing Utah and other western United States. Involving students in scholarly research is a key program goal, and will likely increase during the upcoming year.
The Research Fellows Program was very productive during the 2017-18 academic year. Professor John Ruple, Caitlin Ceci (class of 2019) and Michael Henderson (class of 2019) published “Up for Grabs—The State of Fossil Protection in (Recently) Unprotected National Monuments,” in the Georgetown Environmental Law Review Online (2018). This article refutes assertions that paleontological resources within lands removed from national monuments are protected adequately by other laws.
John’s forthcoming article in the Harvard Environmental Law Review, “The Trump Administration and Lessons Not Learned from Prior National Monument Modifications,” provides a comprehensive review of all prior national monument reductions by US Presidents and concludes that there is no factual or legal precedent for President Trump’s recent reductions to the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. Professors Ross McPhail and Alicia Brillon, and Research Assistants Ceci, Henderson, Connor Arrington (class of 2020), Brian House (class of 2020), and Merrill “Max” Williams (class of 2019) contributed to this lengthy article by combing the National Archives, presidential libraries, and the dusty halls of agency libraries for the obscure records needed to illuminate decisions made more than fifty years ago.
John authored chapters on “Public Land Management,” and “Wilderness & National Monuments” in the forthcoming book The Environmental Politics and Policy of Western Public Lands (Ore. State Univ. Press 2019), and he coauthored “Bears Ears National Monument—An Ongoing Effort to Protect Heritage on a Landscape Scale” in the forthcoming book Pushing Boundaries (Univ. Press of Colo. 2019). John also authored “Protected Area Conservation” in the American Bar Association’s The Year in Review 2017.
Working with Professor Lincoln Davies, Thomas Kessinger (class of 2018), and Lisa Sledge (class of 2019), John completed a Department of Energy funded study on retrofitting coal fired power plants to permanently sequester CO2. Their findings appear in Legal, Regulatory and Liability Assessment: CarbonSAFE Rocky Mountain Phase I (July 2018) and were part of a larger effort involving faculty and scientists from multiple universities and national laboratories.
John, Max Williams, Nate Broadhurst (class of 2020), and Kayla Race (class of 2020) are currently working with Professor Michael Tanana from the College of Social Work to assess National Environmental Policy Act litigation and environmental impact reductions attributable to the NEPA review process. These efforts will provide much-needed empirical information on the hotly debated benefits and costs of complying with what has been called the Magna Carta of US environmental law. They anticipate that their efforts will result in two law review articles that will be co-authored with these talented students, and that these articles will inform ongoing efforts to revise NEPA’s implementing regulations.
John and Michael Henderson are also collaborating with Geography Professor Phoebe McNeally on a US Forest Service funded study of legal challenges to national forest system planning efforts. This project aims to help the Forest Service better identify legal pitfalls and to navigate the planning process. John is also working with Professor Robin Craig and Connor Arrington on an assessment of legal and institutional barriers to water resource allocation and management in Pakistan, which will include prescriptions for legal and institutional change. John and Connor will travel to Pakistan in October to meet with Justices from the Pakistan Supreme Court to discuss their ongoing research.
National and regional media outlets are increasingly turning to the Stegner Center’s Research Program for information on public land law, as are members of Congress and state lawmakers from across the West. We look forward to continuing to provide the carefully researched and objective analysis needed to inform policy making, and we are grateful to the AHE/CI Trust, ESRR Endowment Fund, the Wilburforce Foundation, and a host of smaller donors that make these efforts possible.