A Summer in Boise, Idaho

BLM Challis Resource Area, Custer County, Central Idaho

When I told my law school friends back in New York that I would be working for the Department of Interior in the Office of the Solicitor’s Boise Field Office, I got a couple of blank stares to say the least. I received the same response again and again. “Really? Boise, Idaho?” Well, with only two weeks left in Boise, I can say that I’ve had the most amazing experience of my life living and working out here. I’ve been able to work on water rights issues with the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), public land issues with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and even wild fire cases from people using exploding targets on BLM rangeland.[1] Along the way, I’ve been able to meet and work with the most amazing people. Regional and Field Solicitors, Assistant U.S. Attorneys, BOR engineers, range managers, fire investigators, wildlife biologists, ranchers, farmers, environmentalists, conservationists, and even county sheriffs threatening to arrest any federal employee stepping foot on “county” land. And the best part, I get to work right smack in the middle of it all. I’m by no means religious, but it truly is God’s country out here.

I find myself in awe on a daily basis. I think it is because of just how much open land is out here. Back east, all the land has been bought, sold, developed and then re-developed again. On the east coast, with the vast majority of land and natural resources under private ownership, environmental attorneys must rely heavily on litigation to solve environmental degradation. However, out west, with the millions of acres of undeveloped public land managed by the federal government,[2] environmental and natural resource attorneys have the unique opportunity to counsel land managers on how to prevent environmental degradation. It is a management approach to environmental stewardship as opposed to an environmental enforcement approach. Not only does this prevent environmental degradation in the first place, but attorneys work hand in hand with the land managers to meet the federal and state environmental laws and standards. It is less of an “us v. them” mentality, and more of an environmentally sound, reasonable land management approach.

I have been extremely fortunate this summer. All my experiences, both in the office, and more importantly outside of the office, have reminded me why I want to become an environmental attorney. When you peel back all the intricacies of the law surrounding what we do, you are left with the most beautiful lands and resources any attorney could hope to work for. We only have a limited amount of undeveloped public lands and natural resources in this country. Every inch is worth protecting.

[1] See Exploding targets causing Idaho fires, Idaho Statesman (June 14, 2012), http://www.idahostatesman.com/2012/06/14/2154426/exploding-targets-causing-fires.html.

[2] Federal public lands in Idaho account for 63.8% of all the land in the state, with 96% of that land managed by either the U.S. Forest Service or the Department of the Interior. See Jay O’Laughlin, Wyatt R. Hundrup & Philip S. Cook, History and Analysis of Federally Administered Lands in Idaho 8 (1998), available at http://www.cnrhome.uidaho.edu/documents/Chapter1.pdf?pid=90765&doc=1.

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