The Stegner Center’s 23rd Symposium, held on March 15-16, 2018, brought together 19 speakers from around the country and attracted 372 registrants for a two-day discussion on “Public Lands in a Changing West.” With controversy continuing to embroil the federal public lands, and with our nation approaching the 50th anniversary of the 1970 Public Land Law Review Commission report, this year’s symposium was an opportune time to examine the changes that have occurred during the past fifty years, the forces driving current controversies, and the opportunities to anticipate and resolve future conflicts. “The symposium provided an excellent opportunity to explore the conflicts plaguing the public lands and how these conflicts are being addressed in specific places,” said Bob Keiter, the Director of the Stegner Center. “Symposium speakers brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to bear and provided us with viable suggestions for improving the state of affairs on the West’s extraordinary public lands.”
Symposium events began on March 14 with the Wallace Stegner Lecture. John D. Leshy, a Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco and former Solicitor (General Counsel) of the Interior Department throughout the Clinton Administration, delivered the Wallace Stegner Lecture on “Debunking the Creation Myths of America’s Public Lands.” Professor Leshy argued that “We must embrace large federal landholdings as a shared patrimony—a precious heritage which binds us to our ancestors and which we, in turn, hold in trust for future generations. It is our heavy responsibility to manage these assets wisely, so that they continue to serve generations to follow, just as they can help us overcome the crisis we face today.” The University of Utah Press is publishing Professor Leshy’s lecture as part of the Stegner Center’s Wallace Stegner Lecture series publications.
The symposium officially opened with presentations by Ray Rasker of Headwater Economics on economic and demographic changes in the West and by Jocelyn Aycrigg of the University of Idaho College of Natural Resources on science, policy, and the public lands. Following their presentations, Bob Keiter from the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law reviewed the evolving legal and policy framework governing public lands, and Charles Wilkinson from the University of Colorado Law School delivered a keynote presentation on Indian tribes and federal lands.
After these initial presentations, the symposium examined three signature issues—the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument designation, multi-jurisdictional efforts to manage for sage grouse conservation, and the Crown of the Continent initiative in northern Montana—to extract key lessons learned and viable strategies for addressing contentious issues. A group of panelists who represented different perspectives (science, advocacy, government and academia) considered each of these issues. Lynn Scarlett, the global Co-Chief of External Affairs at The Nature Conservancy and former Deputy Secretary and Chief Operating Officer of the U.S. Department of the Interior, gave a keynote presentation on “From Conflict to Cooperation: Challenges of Scale, Complexity and Change,” while Rebecca Watson, a former Interior Department Assistant Secretary, addressed emerging recreation issues on the public lands.
One of the highlights of the symposium was the concluding panel discussion on “The Path Forward: Challenges and Opportunities,” moderated by Matthew McKinney of the Center for Natural Resources & Environmental Policy at the University of Montana. The panel discussion brought together four key speakers from the symposium–John Leshy, Lynn Scarlett, Charles Wilkinson, and Rebecca Watson of Welborn Sullivan Meck & Tooley, P.C.—for a discussion of challenges and lessons learned as we look to the future and try to address some of the most contentious public lands issues.
Felix Mormann, Associate Professor of Law, Texas A&M University School of Law and Faculty Fellow, Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance, Stanford University, joined the Stegner Center as the 13th Annual Stegner Center Young Scholar on November 1, 2017. He delivered a Young Scholar Lecture entitled “Clean Energy Equity” at the College of Law, which will be published in an upcoming environmental and natural resources law issue of the student-edited Utah Law Review.
On October 11, the Stegner Center joined with the American West Center, the J Willard Marriott Library, and the Utah State Historical Society to sponsor a program on “Diné Voices on Bears Ears,” which included a screening of the short film Shash Jaa’: Bears Ears, followed by a panel discussion with four Diné (Navajo) scholars who have contributed to the dialogue on the Bears Ears National Monument. Focusing primarily on Diné perspectives, the panelists addressed diverse narratives of the Bears Ears and traced how the development of this contested designation has affected Diné communities.
The Stegner Center hosted a variety of speakers for our noon-hour Stegner Lecture and Green Bag Series, including the following:
- “Thank You Fossil Fuels and Good Night” with author Gregory Meehan
- “Dynamics of the Changing Bonneville Salt Flats” with Brenda B. Bowen, Director, Global Change and Sustainability Center, Associate Professor, Geology and Geophysics, University of Utah
- “The End of Sustainability: Learning to Live with the Trickster in Natural Resources Management” with Robin Kundis Craig, James I. Farr Presidential Endowed Professor of Law, University of Utah S.J. Quinney
- A reading and photographic presentation by Jim Herrington, Author and International Photographer on his book The Climbers
- A reading by author and environmentalist Chip Ward from his new book Stony Mesa
- A presentation on transportation challenges on the Wasatch Front with Andrew Gruber, Executive Director, Wasatch Front Regional Council, Utah