Should trees stand?
Judge William O’Douglas famously thought of this proposition in his dissent in Sierra v. Morton. The Sierra Club has filed a lawsuit to block the development of a ski resort in California’s Mineral King Valley. In a 4-3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that Sierra Club had no standing – the legal right – to sue because the club and its members had not suffered any actual injury.
But there were parties likely to be negatively affected by the development of the resort. The trees, plants, and wildlife of the Mineral King had their lives and environment irreversibly affected by the development of the land. Trees, deer, and bears obviously cannot sue in our courts, but in his dissent, Judge Douglas questioned whether we should create the legal framework for bringing cases on their behalf.
Recently, some countries have seen fit to do so. Colombia and New Zealand recognize the rights of rivers; Ecuador provides constitutional rights to rivers and forests.
William O. Douglas was a pioneer in the environmental and conservation movement. In “Citizen Justice: The Environmental Legacy of William O. Douglas – Public Advocate and Conservation Champion,” Margaret M. On and off the field.
Much has been written about Douglas, the man who spent his childhood here in Yakima, and who would grow up to be the longest-serving justice in the United States. He wrote several biographies on top of many others, and extensive studies of his legal views have been authored in the decades following his departure from court in November 1975. McKeown’s work adds to the literature on Douglas with its focus on Douglas as a “dissident.”
In the legal field, he was a dissenting hero, dissenting in nearly 500 Supreme Court cases, often alone. But McKeown shows he defected as a citizen as well, and his discontent often led to real change. When the Washington Post editorial board wrote an opinion in favor of building a park road on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, Douglas called on the editorial board to hike the 184 miles of the canal with him. Postal editors joined him, although none of them finished. However, it retracted its position, public sentiment shifted over the Parkway, and C&O later became a national park.
This wasn’t the only time Douglas had raised a protest. A similar march in Olympic National Park helped halt development of the stretch of US Highway 101 on the Olympic Peninsula, and an expedition with friends Olas and Mardy Murie to Alaska played a role in the long struggle to create the National Arctic Federation in Alaska. Wildlife Sanctuary.
There is much to commend McKeown for her efforts. The book is informative and explores areas of Douglas’ life that have not been as extensively scrutinized as the others. It is well researched, drawing on archival records from libraries around the country, as well as Douglas’ own work. Finally, it is brief. With the main text at just over 200 pages, I was able to complete it in just a few sessions. It was nice to read a historical book that was clear in its purpose and argument, and did not look short of welcoming it.
The movie “Citizen Justice” will find a welcome place among the works of William O. Douglas. Readers will find it pairs well with “Tanum: A Story of Bumping Lake and William O. Douglas Wilderness” by Susan Summit Sayre, another recent edition that my colleague Amy Miller reviewed in this column several weeks ago. Lots of new Pacific Northwest environmental books are being published right now. This is a good moment for fans of these genres, and “Citizen Justice” is an unmissable read.
• “Citizen Justice: The Environmental Legacy of William O. Douglas – Attorney General and Champion of Conservation” by Margaret McKeown published by Potomac Press on September 1.
• JT Maynard is a history teacher at Yakima Valley College and a former employee of the Inklings Library. Inklings staff reviews books every week at SCENE.