Thursday, September 29, 2016

When loggers were green

The Forest History Society awarded its 2016 Blegen Award for the best article on forest and conservation history to Erik Loomis for his "When Loggers Were Green: Lumber, Labor, and Conservation, 1937-1948", published in Western Historical Quarterly.

Soleduck Falls shelter, Olympic National Park, constructed 1939
(M. Stupich, courtesy of National Park Service, Pacific Northwest Region)
The IWA was a strong supporter of the creation of the park for protecting old-growth forest

There's a lot of law in the article, though the union was often on the losing side. The opening paragraphs:
In April 1939, Harold Pritchett, president of the International Woodworkers of America (IWA), went on radio station KIRO in Seattle to explain his union’s program for forest conservation. Pritchett bluntly attacked the timber industry for its wasteful practices, noting, “under the present policy of timber destruction three feet of Northwest timber is being used for every new foot being grown.” Saying the nation’s forests were too important to serve corporate masters, Pritchett demanded a government-led reforestation program that would hire unemployed loggers and recharge the timber resource. He argued for federal policies mandating selective logging rather than clear-cutting large patches of forest. Pritchett justified federal intervention by comparing it to the New Deal’s expansion of government authority into public utilities and banking as well as the passage of the Social Security Act. Only through “initiating a forest program that is based on the needs and also the responsibilities of the forest land owners” under “federal control of forest cutting practices,” Pritchett declared, could the forests of the Northwest remain productive for future generations.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Economics and property rights in the Gold Rush

I just came across a review that I wrote and submitted a while ago for the Business History Review on Mark Kanazawa's Golden Rules: The Origins of California Water Law in the Gold Rush (U. Chicago Press, 2015). I had thought the editors would inform me when it was published... Anyway, here's what I wrote:
There's still gold in them thar hills. A century and a half after the torrent of gold-seekers to the California Sierras dried up, the flow of historical studies of the development of property rights on the gold frontier continues unabated. This work of detailed scholarship by Mark Kanazawa, an economic historian who has published extensively on water law in the western United States, is the latest entry into the auriferous regions.
Romance and adventure aside, economic and legal historians, along with property theorists, have been drawn to the California gold rush for two main reasons. First, the development of “codes” in the mining camps of the forty-niners provides a colorful case study of the institution of a system of law from scratch. Because government presence and state law were thin on the ground in gold-rush California, the ability of the miners to institute working systems of norms seems to serve as a historical example of successful private ordering. Beyond this, scholars of water law have taken a particular interest in the laws of the diggings, as the system of private rights in water that applies to this day in much of the western United States, known as the appropriation doctrine, is thought to have originated in the gold fields. So miners’ laws have received quite a lot of attention in studies hoping to explain how legal order spontaneously emerged out of chaos and why the miners abrogated the common-law regime of “riparian rights” in water (in which all landholders adjacent to the water source shared it) in favor of appropriation, based on the principle of “first in time, first in right.”
Golden Rules takes an economic approach to understanding the origin and evolution of water law in the California mining region in the decade or so following the discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill. After several substantial introductory chapters laying out the history of California gold mining and the ditch industry that developed to provide the water used in increasingly large and sophisticated mining operations—as well as the economic theories of property and tort he believes explain the historical development of the law—Kanazawa gets down to his analysis in detail. Chapter 5 examines the water rules adopted in the mining camps, arguing that they generally did a good job of promoting mining at an efficient scale. Chapter 6 discusses how economic forces gradually pushed disputes over water from the informal mining camp system to the official courts of the state. Chapter 7 argues that the appropriation doctrine as it developed in the California gold fields was economically efficient. Chapters 8 and 9 turn to legal issues often ignored in both gold rush histories and the legal history of water—the regulation of water quality and damage caused by bursting dams—arguing that with regard to these, too, California law provided efficient solutions.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Commissioners of Sewers and early modern English administrative law

sign in Redwick, Monmouthshire (courtesy geograph)
A couple of years ago we noted the publication of Philip Hamburger's controversial Is Administrative Law Unlawful?. Paul Craig recently posted a paper refuting much of Hamburger's historical argument about the supposed lack of administrative law in early modern England, "The Legitimacy of US Administrative Law and the Foundations of English Administrative Law: Setting the Historical Record Straight". One section deals with the Commissioners of Sewers, and as it's relatively short, I'll reproduce it here (leaving out some of the footnotes):
Sidney and Beatrice Webb began their account of the Commissioners of Sewers [p 13] by noting the difficulty faced by the twentieth century observer in appreciating just how much of England had been composed of vast fens and marshes. Therein lies the explanation for the early attention given to drainage and defences against the sea, leading to the Statute of Sewers 1531, which gave statutory foundation for the Commissioners of Sewers and the Courts of Sewers. They resembled in many respects justices of the peace for the counties, albeit with a specialized jurisdiction over rivers, sewers, ditches, bridges, locks, weirs, sea defences and the like. Their jurisdiction was akin to that of a modern environmental agency. This analogy can be pressed further, insofar as the Commissioners of Sewers “combined in themselves, judicial, executive and even legislative powers” [Webbs, 21]. It is with the rulemaking powers that we are presently concerned.
The Statute of Sewers 1531 authorized Commissioners of Sewers to undertake flood defences broadly conceived, and gave them extensive powers to fulfil this remit. They could make individual decisions concerning repairs that were needed to river banks, sea walls, streams, ditches, gutters and the like, and apportion the costs. They were also authorized to make rules. The Commissioners could use the laws and customs of Romney Marsh as a boilerplate, or devise provisions according to their own discretion. They could thus, "[M]ake and ordain Statutes, Ordinances, and Provisions from time to time, as the Case shall require, for the Safeguard, Conservation, Redress, Correction, and Reformation of the Premisses, and of every of them, and the Parts lying to the same, necessary and behoful, after the Laws and Customs of Rumney Marsh in the County of Kent, or otherwise by any Ways or Means after your own Wisdoms and Discretions."
This rule-making capacity was extensive. The 1531 Statute stipulated that the Commissioners’ rules remained effective for the tenure of their office, which at that time was three years, but were ineffective thereafter. This temporal limit was, however, subject to an exception, whereby the rules could retain their binding force if they were “made and ingrossed in Parchment, and certified under the Seals of the said Commissioners into the King's Court of Chancery, and then the King's Royal Assent be had to the same.” 

Friday, September 2, 2016

National parks in the Netherlands

Wolff en Hoeck in de Purmer: Jan van der Heijden (1678) (courtesy SKBL)
Over at Environmental History Resources, Jan Oosthoek recently posted "Cultured nature: The Nature Scenery Act of the Netherlands", based on his podcast interview with Wybren Verstegen, whose article, "The Nature Scenery Act of 1928 in the Netherlands", was published last year in Forest History Today. There's also a video. Oosthoek writes:
When thinking of national parks most people think of famous examples like Yellow Stone and Yosemite in the United States or the Serengeti in Tanzania. These parks are large in scale with an emphasis on wild life conservation and the preservation of scenic landscapes. Human activity and presence are restricted and regulated and people are visitors.
In smaller and densely populated countries like Britain or the Netherlands, the creation of large national parks is complicated. In these countries landscapes are far from natural and humans are part of the fabric of the landscape. For this reason, it is difficult to restrict human access and activities to create national parks.
In the Netherlands nature and human activity are almost inseparable because about half of the country is at or below sea level and is reclaimed or drained. Consequently, the landscape of the Netherlands is mostly the product of human intervention and can therefore be described as a cultural artefact. As a result, formal protection of landscapes and wildlife came late. One of the early attempts to create protected conservation areas came in 1928 with the Natuurschoonwet, freely translated as Nature Scenery Act. This Act was mostly about protecting country houses set in park like settings.
As Oosthoek himself notes in the video, even in the US park landscapes are far from natural. But, as anyone who has visited parks in the US and in Europe knows, there is a big difference in the degree to which parks aspire to a wild or "natural" aesthetic on the two continents, with European parks tending to distinguish far less sharply than their American counterparts between nature and culture.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Environmental views on the US Supreme Court

A year ago we noted Jed Purdy's review of Jonathan Cannon's Environment in the Balance: The Green Movement and the Supreme Court (Harvard UP, 2014). Now we have Anthony Penna's review of the same in Environmental History. An excerpt:
Jonathan Z. Cannon’s Environment in the Balance argues that the majority of the Supreme Court’s decisions regarding environmental legislation reflected a struggle between competing and conflicting beliefs and values. Environmental laws embraced “an ecological model of the world” (p. 1) that posits interconnections among humans and the natural world and seeks to protect it from potentially harmful human activities across place and time. In contrast, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority during the last forty years (highlighted by the appointment of Associate Justice Scalia in 1986) represented a different set of values and beliefs, stressing individualism, property rights, economic growth, and limited government.
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It is difficult to imagine a more complete analysis of the Supreme Court’s conservative direction when interpreting environmental legislation. Chapter 2, “Environmental Law, the Court, and Interpretation,” provides the background for thirty selected cases from a group of 150 significant environmental cases decided between 1970 and 2014 and an interpretive guide for categorizing majority and minority positions. Chapter 3, “Environmental Urgency and Law,” reinforces the author’s thesis that the deep-seated beliefs and values of justices inform their decisions when interpreting environmental laws.
Chapter 4, “Law for the Environmental Other,” explores the Court’s findings when the rights of the other conflicts with human use and benefit. In cases in which species protected by the Endangered Species Act, 1964 and the Marine Mammal Protection Act, 1972 were litigated, the Court rejected arguments that reflected Aldo Leopold’s ecocentric perspective.
In Chapter 5, “Efficiency,” Cannon notes that from 1972 to 2007 the Court resisted using cost-benefit-analysis in environmental and worker safety statutes. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

More on Indian treaties

"Salmon Fishing at Chenook", James G. Swan,
in The Northwest Coast; Or, Three Years' Residence in Washington Territory, 1857
Yesterday we posted on Indian treaties in the northeastern US (and Canada); today it's the Northwest. Michael Blumm recently posted "Indian Treaty Fishing Rights and the Environment: Affirming the Right to Habitat Protection and Restoration". The abstract:
In 1970, twenty-one tribes in the Pacific Northwest, along with their federal trustee, sued the state of Washington, claiming that numerous state actions violated their treaty rights, which assured them “the right of taking fish in common with” white settlers. The tribes and their federal trustee maintained that the treaties of the 1850s guaranteed the tribes 1) a share of fish harvests for both cultural and commercial purposes, 2) inclusion of hatchery fish in that harvest share, and 3) protection of the habitat necessary to provide the fish that were the basis of the bargain which led to peaceful white settlement of the Pacific Northwest. By 1985, the tribes and the trustee convinced the courts of the merits of the first two propositions, but the Ninth Circuit deferred on the third, requiring a specific factual dispute. 
Some two decades later, in 2007, the tribes and the federal government convinced district judge Ricardo Martinez that the state’s construction and maintenance of road culverts blocking salmon access to their spawning grounds violated the 1850s treaties. In 2013, after settlement talks failed, the district court issued an injunction that required most of the offending barrier culverts to be remedied within seventeen years, or by 2030. Claiming exaggerated costs of compliance, the state appealed, and in 2016 a unanimous panel of the Ninth Circuit affirmed, rejecting wholesale the state’s allegations. This article discusses the reasoning of both the district court and the Ninth Circuit and makes some assessment of the road ahead, which may implicate road culverts owned by other governments and other habitat-damaging activities like dams, water diversions, and land management actions affecting water quality and quantity.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Squirrels, bears, and treaties

Black Squirrel, Stirling Ontario (Robert Taylor)
Loren Michael Mortimer recently posted at Early Canadian History on bear and squirrel migrations across the St. Lawrence River in the late 18th century:
In September of 1759, great armies were on the move through the upper St. Lawrence Valley. Not the military forces under the command of Montcalm and Wolfe en-route to their climactic showdown on the Plains of Abraham, but an army of black bears migrating en-masse southward from Canada into Britain’s Atlantic colonies. During that autumn, newspapers from New England and New York recorded a southern migration of bears, accompanied by an equally mysterious appearance of thousands of black squirrels. Bears were reported in the city of Boston for the first time in a century—a large bear “the size of small cow” was shot on a Boston wharf as it swam across the harbor from Dorchester Neck.
Bears were “spreading mischief” on colonial farms from the New England frontier to the lower Hudson Valley, devouring fields of “Indian corn” and destroying stocks of hogs, sheep, and calves. British army officers bemoaned frequent bear sightings near General Jeffery Amherst’s field headquarters on Lake Champlain. Newspapers printed lurid tales of a bear attacking and eating two children as they picked beans in a field in Brentwood, New Hampshire. One bear reportedly attacked a female colonist walking near her house, but only made off with the “hind part” of her gown. As much as these armies of marauding bears and squirrels vexed Anglo-American colonists, they provided a critical windfall for indigenous hunters residing beyond New England in the Canadian borderlands and the vast St. Lawrence watershed to the north. 
There's a legal angle to this, as well:

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Merchants of Doubt - the prequel

(courtesy The Age of Change)
Oreskes and Conway's Merchants of Doubt shined a light on how industry employed scientists in recent decades to cast doubt on the reality of environmental and health problems like smoking and climate change. An article by Andrew Perchard & Keith Gildart in last year's Labor History, "'Buying brains and experts': British coal owners, regulatory capture and miners’ health, 1918 – 1946", shows that this problem has been around for a while. The abstract:
This article examines British coal owners’ use of medical and scientific knowledge of occupational lung diseases in the mining industry to resist regulatory changes between 1918 and 1946. It explores the strategies deployed by coal owners in response to scientific and lay debates over the hazard to workers’ health presented by dust, and legislation to compensate miners for pneumoconiosis and silicosis contracted in the nation’s collieries. In particular, it investigates coal owner deployment of the views of notable scientists, especially the eminent physiologist John Scott Haldane (1860–1936), who insisted on the harmlessness of coal dust, in order to avoid costly compensation payments, as well as capital investment in ameliorative measures to reduce miners’ exposure to such hazards. In so doing, the article provides new insights by illustrating how coal owners influenced mining education programmes, deploying the arguments of Haldane and others, with direct implications for health and safety in British mines. This contributed to the mounting public health disaster wrought by coal dust on Britain’s mining communities. This process is viewed as part of the broader political activities of the coal owners – and their industry body, the Mining Association of Great Britain – in its attempts to influence the regulatory process in a period of dramatic change in the political economy of coal.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Water pollution regulation in 1909

Last week This Day in Water History reproduced a 1909 article from Municipal Journal and Engineer, "Stream Pollution in America", according to which state authorities were very active in prosecuting violations of water pollution regulations. Some highlights:
The Ohio State Board of Health has been asked to investigate 18 complaints under the act prohibiting stream pollution, and has ordered sewage disposal works to be installed in four of the cities before Jan. 1, 1910. The constitutionality of the law under which they act has been questioned, but if decided in their favor they hope to prevent the pollution of all the streams in the State.
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In Maryland many of the larger towns maintain sewage disposal plants, but about 120 restraining orders have been issued against municipalities and corporations during the past year on account of stream pollution. 
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Indiana’s new anti-pollution law, passed this year, forbids the pollution of streams, its enforcement being in the hands of the State Board of Health. 
The blog comments: "The important thread that runs through most of the state reports is that pollution of waterways was prohibited by state law. However, we know from other sources that these laws were seldom enforced or had penalties that were too lenient, so they were ignored."
"The Governor of Maryland Accompanying the Sewerage Commission
 and the Chief Engineer on a Tour of Inspection through the Outfall Sewer"
 (courtesy Water and Me)

Thursday, July 28, 2016

More zoning history: the Federal government, Herbert Hoover, and sprawl

In honor of zoning's 100th anniversary, John Nolon has been posting a multi-part series on the history of zoning at Land Use Prof Blog (see here at the bottom of the page). Some highlights from the first couple of posts (here and here) on the interplay between local, state, and national legislation:
Cities are not sovereign entities; they get their legal authority from the state. New York City’s zoning law, for example, was enabled by a 1914 act of the state legislature, which amended the City’s Charter to authorize it to control land use. Twenty state legislatures, plus the District of Columbia, followed suit by adopting some form of zoning enabling act by 1921.  In other states, many localities rushed to adopt zoning laws in the absence of state authority, risking invalidation due to their lack of legal authority. The need for enabling acts in all states and for a uniform and effective method of delegating control of land use to municipalities led to the promulgation of a model zoning enabling act by a national commission in 1922.
Although the federal government has limited power to regulate local land uses, it has an important role to play in enabling, guiding, and assisting local governments to exercise their delegated power wisely. Zoning’s story illustrates the powerful influence that the federal government can wield if it plays this facilitative role strategically.  In the case of zoning’s adoption, the story involves the federal Department of Commerce.
As Secretary of Commerce under presidents Harding and Coolidge in the 1920s, Herbert Hoover paved the way for the rapid adoption of zoning. Hoover noted “Our cities [do] not produce their full contribution to the sinews of American life and national character” and these “moral and social issues can only be solved by a new conception of city building.”  His response was to appoint two advisory committees: one to write a standard building code and another to draft model zoning and planning statutes to be adopted by the states, in their discretion.