Instructor: Thompson Chair in Environmental Studies Randall K. Wilson
Department: Environmental Studies
Smokey Bear is one of the most highly recognized icons in American culture today. But while many know of his efforts to prevent wildfires, fewer are aware of the contentious issues surrounding the issue of fire policy on national forests. What would Smokey say if he knew that many foresters currently promote forest fires as part of efforts to maintain a healthy forest? Likewise, could he make sense of the fact that bison can be defined as a protected "threatened" species, a threat to livestock, or as "burger on the hoof" simply as a function of where they graze? Or how the strongest advocates for the wildlife refuge system are those who most enjoy shooting it? Or the way environmentalists have worked to eliminate grazing on public rangelands....by becoming ranchers themselves? Such conundrums can be a bit much for any level-headed bear to take in. This course investigates the surprising and often contradictory environmental policy and management challenges facing national parks, forests and wildlife refuges in the United States. To make sense of them, students visit a number of such places, interact with real managers, conduct a project, and consider the "big ideas" of nature that quietly underpin America's system of public lands.