Virtual Author Talk: John Leshy on "Our Common Ground"
John Leshy’s new history of America’s public lands, Our Common Ground (Yale University Press, 2022), explains how the U.S. government came to hold nearly 30% of the land in the nation (more than 600 million acres) and, through four federal agencies (National Park Service, Forest Service, Fish & Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Land Management), manage it primarily for recreation, education, and conservation of biodiversity and cultural resources. The book focuses on the key political decisions that led to this result, one that has been supported by durable and bipartisan political consensus—a political success story that is particularly welcome in an era of cynicism about government. The first comprehensive history of this major American institution in many decades, it is particularly timely as the world grapples with the challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss.
Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, Leshy was solicitor (general counsel) of the Interior Department throughout the Clinton administration. Earlier, he was counsel to the chair of the Natural Resources Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, a law professor at Arizona State University, associate solicitor of Interior for Energy and Resources in the Carter administration, an attorney-advocate with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and a litigator in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. He led the Interior Department transition team for Clinton-Gore in 1992 and co-led it for Obama-Biden in 2008. Leshy has been a visiting professor four times at Harvard Law School, from which he graduated in 1969 after earning an A.B. at Harvard College. His many publications include a book on the Mining Law of 1872 and casebooks (co-authored) on public land and resources law (8th edition, 2021) and water law (6th edition, 2018).
Felicity Barringer joined the Center as writer in residence in September 2016. She is the editor and lead writer for the Center’s “... & the West” online magazine on western environmental and health issues. She was a national environmental correspondent during the last decade of her 28 years at The New York Times. She provided an in-depth look at the adoption of AB 32, California’s landmark climate-change bill after covering state’s carbon reduction carbon policies. More recently, she focused on the West’s water challenges. Earlier, she covered the United Nations and worked as a correspondent in Moscow. Her career began at The Bergen Record; she worked at The Washington Post for nine years.