WILDLIFE AND WILD LANDS DO NOT BELONG TO SPECIAL INTEREST GROUPS
|Photo courtesy of Barry Babcock|
Two Supreme Court decisions: Martin v. Waddell (1842) and Geer v. Connecticut (1896) and three federal laws; the Weeks Act, the Wilderness Act of 1964 and the Endangered and Threatened Species Act 1973 set the course for the public on public lands, wildlife and watershed protections for the good of the public and reinforced the notion of the public role on public lands. The law I am going to talk about is the Martin v Waddell (1842). This fight had to do with oysters and who they rightfully belonged to. Basically it was concerning an oyster hunter who felt the oysters in a river were his "right." The property owners said the oysters were theirs.
"In Martin v. Waddell - 1842, the United States Supreme Court applied English common law to reject a landowner's claim to an oyster fishery that was located under the public waters of the state of New Jersey. The court concluded that with the formation of the United States, the lands that had once belonged to England passed to the state of New Jersey; applying English common law, the court held that the 'land under navigable waters... were to be held... in the same manner and for the same purposes that the navigable waters of England and the soils under them are held by the Crown.' English policy, since the time of Magna Carta, was to preserve such resources "for the benefit of the public." Thus, the landowner could not lay claim to the oyster fishery because his actions deprived the citizens of New Jersey any access to this resource, which was held collectively by the citizens of that state."
"...the power or control lodged in the state, resulting from this common ownership, is to be exercised, like all other powers government as a trust for the benefit of the people, and not as a prerogative for the advantage of the government as distinct from the people, or for the benefit of private individuals as distinguished from the public good" (emphasis added). (Bruskotter, J.T., S.A Enzler, and A. Treves. 2011. Rescuing Wolves from Politics: Wildlife as a Public Trust Resource. Science 333:1828-1829).
Wildlife in America is the "domain" of all Americans. It is not the domain of private landowners or corporations. The plant and animal communities in this country belong to us "for the benefit of the public."
I say and write this as something we should not forget. I also am a hunter but believe that far too many sportsman groups along with financial support by special interests have forced resource agencies to turn a deaf ear to many Americans.