Research Fellows Program


Stegner Center Research Fellows Program

Public lands include towering mountains, stunning desert vistas, iconic National Parks, and vast lakes and reservoirs—public lands also contain vast stores of renewable and fossil energy, valuable minerals, and timber. Striking the appropriate balance between resource protection and resource development generates some of the most contentious issues facing the West today. The Stegner Center’s Research Program was established to provide objective legal and policy analysis relating to Western public lands and management of the natural resources they contain.

The U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and National Park Service manage almost 335 million acres or over 44-percent of the land within the eleven contiguous Western states. National Park Service units within this region tallied almost 93 million visits during 2013, creating jobs and bolstering local economies. Logging, grazing, and mining are also critically important to both the Western economy and way of life, and during FY2013, federal public lands generated billions in revenue for the federal treasury — $2.44 billion of this revenue was disbursed back to state and local governments in Western states.

Western public lands are also an important source of water, with National Forest System lands contributing one-third of the West’s water supply. As with land, tradeoffs involving water necessitate hard choices. Seven U.S. states, over 40 million Americans, and much of northwestern Mexico all depend on the Colorado River System for water. Demand for water from the Colorado River continues to increase while climate change calls into question both the amount and reliability of future Colorado River flows.

Research Program legal and policy analysis combines with option-centered advice to inform a wide range of public land management decisions.

Recents Public Lands Research Publications:

Ongoing Research Topics:

  • National monument creation, modification, and management
  • Water resource allocation and management in Pakistan
  • NEPA efficacy

Prior Research:

  • Federal-State land exchanges and land exchange reform efforts
  • Water resource allocation
  • Oil shale and oil sands development
  • The water-energy nexus
  • Carbon capture and sequestration


John Ruple
Wallace Stegner Center for Land, Resources and the Environment
University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law
383 S. University Street
Salt Lake City, UT 84112-0730
801-581-6545 (office); 801-585-2750 (fax)

 The Stegner Center Research Program is made possible by generous support from:

Principal Sponsors:

The AHE/CI Trust
The ESRR Endowment Fund for the Wallace Stegner Center
Wilburforce Foundation

Program Supporters:

The 444S Foundation
The Comstock Foundation
The Dorsey & Whitney Foundation
The Kendeda Fund
The Natural Resources Defense Council
The Partnership Project
The Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation
The Turner Foundation