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Bear in the Woods: Environmental Law Blog

Monday, April 08, 2013

Whose lands are public lands?

“This land is your land” (Woodrow Wilson Guthrie, American Singer-Songwriter)

"We have been criticized by one or two organizations that portray themselves as representing everybody that has an interest in this. They're not local. That's why we're here today to meet with the people who do have a local, direct interest into this tract of land." (Richard Allan, DCNR Secretary)

"We learned a little bit, but did not have an opportunity for input. It wasn't set up for input," Dan Alters, President of the Lycoming County Audubon Society.

It is troubling when the Secretary of the DCNR, who is constitutionally obligated to conserve Pennsylvania’s state forests for all the citizens of the Commonwealth – present and future - indicates that only persons that live near our state parks and forests have enough of an interest in those lands to be granted an audience with the agency that will decide its fate.

As reported by the Sun-Gazette, the DCNR held a closed-door meeting last week with a hand-selected group of concerned citizens on how the agency intends to proceed to manage the “Clarence Moore” tracts of land in the Loyalsock State Forest.
It apparently is news to the Secretary that:
  • Pennsylvanians travel hundreds of miles to enjoy their public outdoor recreation areas;
  • Those that do not or cannot travel to our parks and forests still have an interest in those lands and a right to know how their government is managing them;
  • The Pennsylvania Constitution requires that he manage the Loyalsock State Forest for the enjoyment of current Pennsylvanians, but also for future generations Pennsylvanians not yet born; and
  • Conserving Pennsylvania’s iconic wild areas is not just an abstract idea - it is the greatest living reminder that conservation itself is a core Pennsylvanian and American value.
Indeed, America’s sportsmen - one such interested group - have consistently made clear that our conservation heritage is a priority issue on par with gun rights in this country.

Secretary Allan’s attempt to divide Pennsylvania’s conservationists by narrowly defining who participates in this important decision is ill conceived.  Secretary Allan should understand that the interest in this public resource reaches far beyond those that  live near the Loyalsock State Forest.

It was President Ulysses S. Grant that created our first Natonal Park by protecting one of America’s great living treasures - Yellowstone National Park.  Query whether any of us would now have the chance to think about loading our children into the car and taking that iconic summer trip out west if President Grant had thought about public resources the way that Secretary Allan apparently does.

1 comment:

  1. Or we might even pile the kids in the car and drive EAST to see Yellowstone. At least that's what me and my family did several times before I moved to the state of Indiana.