Today’s Madravenspeak is Part 2 of an analysis of the Public Trust Doctrine as a democratizing factor in fighting for democratic reform of state agencies funded on killing licenses as they expand killing exponentially, dropping prices for killing licenses to bargain basement. Trapping will take out the rest of our wildlife for the 1.3 billion Chinese and Russian newly rich. We must stop them now!! The courts are the only place to change course. Please do your part by networking the Madravenspeak column and sharing it on your social network sites and email lists!
Re-examination of the Public Trust Doctrine (Part 2)
“Amid the psychoses of modern times, we are suicidally exploiting the earth and our neighbors. If we are to survive, we must reclaim the reverence for life made possible by the human imagination.” ~ Chris Hedges, 2014
In 1968, legal scholar Joseph Sax joined a fight against the use of DDT and became intrigued with how a intensely focused single interest often prevails over a majority of people with diverse interests. “While attention is focused on majorities who deal badly with minorities, powerful and organized minorities are having their way at the expense of the majority,” he wrote.
In 1970, Sax published a seminal paper that set the course for protection of our country’s natural resources. He proposed that some natural resources “are so important that they should be treated in the courts as a ‘public trust,’ and that citizens had the right to sue to protect them against government, business and private individuals who might threaten them.”
A 1979 National Audubon lawsuit opened the way to expand the public trust doctrine beyond public access to navigable waters, to include wildlife, land, air and beaches.
Sax saw the courts and a vibrant public trust doctrine as democratizing factors: “When the state holds a resource that is available for the free use of the general public, a court will look with considerable skepticism upon any governmental conduct which is calculated either to reallocate that resource to more restricted uses or to subject public uses to the self-interest of private parties.”
Such is the case with Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which is squandering our wildlife by presenting them as killing fodder and prioritizing violence on our public lands for the benefit of the few.
Geriann Albers, DNR furbearer specialist, when asked about any restrictions on trappers killing on our public lands (including state parks) emailed: “We don’t restrict the number of hikers on a trail, the number of bird watchers at a marsh, or the number of trappers using the property. … Just as a hiker might choose a trail because fewer people will be using it, or a kayaker might choose a smaller creek to avoid motorboats, so do trappers choose where to make sets.”
Comparing hiking and bird watching to killing wildlife is like comparing citizens walking into a public museum to view priceless unique works of art to citizens slashing the contents of the museum and taking art home for private possession. The trapper is destroying forever the rights and access of the wildlife appreciator to their commons.
There are four guidelines for involving the courts, according to Sax:
1. Has public property been disposed of at less than market value under circumstances that indicate there is no obvious reason for the grant of a subsidy?
2. Has the government granted to some private interest the authority to make resource use decisions which may subordinate broad public resource uses to that private interest?
3. Has there been an attempt to reallocate broad public uses either to private uses or to public uses which have less breadth? (the withdrawal of beneficial use which is available to a wide segment of the population).
4. The last benchmark is whether the resource is being used for its natural purpose.
Assess this criteria against the DNR’s trapping agenda:
1. First-time trappers can take as many animals as they can kill in six- to seven- month seasons for a $5 license. Even at the $20 regular license fee, the $110,000 paid into the DNR amounts to 19 cents per wild animal killed (over 570,000 “estimated” trapped). The market value of a beaver in 2012-13 was $22.17, opossum, $1.83, raccoon, $15.46; grey fox, $21.90, coyote, $24.24, otter, $85.18; and bobcat $126.60.
Total pelt value from that season: $4,505,909.34. That’s quite a subsidy.
2. The DNR has granted trappers, a tiny percentage of Wisconsin’s population, a unique commercial opportunity to destroy our commons, subordinating the interests of the 90 percent of the public who are “nonconsumptive.” One could also argue that the government’s granting the “Conservation Congress” sole advisory status has subordinated the general public interest to the hunting lobby. The Legislature giving control of the Natural Resources Board to hunter and farmers can be seen as giving authority to private interests as well.
3. Public lands are devoted to the minority for its destruction of wildlife. Wildlife is afraid of us and lives nocturnally or hidden. Or else they are killed. We who love wildlife have less opportunity to have healthy relationship with our wild neighbors on both private and public lands.
4. The last benchmark is an important one: natural purpose. Beavers, bears, bobcats, wolves, coyotes and otters not serving any natural purpose are expendable.
After a thorough exorcism, the DNR needs an infusion of democracy and reverence for life.through the public trust doctrine.
Wildlife Ethic will be tabling at Vegan Fest at the Goodman Center on Saturday, June 7. If anyone would like to volunteer to help set up, talk to people, or tear down, please contact me. The more people there to help talk to people, the more resource to inform. You are welcome to participate and there are some very good speakers and food sampling again this year. Please come and bring friends! Stop by the table – or better yet, help us table! Thanks. Patricia