Railroads and Clearcuts: Legacy of Congress's 1864 Northern Pacific Railroad Land Grant

Derrick Jensen, Author, George Draffan, With Keokee Company Publishing $15 (198p) ISBN 978-1-879628-08-3
In 1864, Abraham Lincoln signed a law granting public land for the building of a railroad running from Lake Superior to the Pacific Ocean--the largest in American history. This Northern Pacific railroad land grant (reproduced in the appendix here) included a section stating ``That Congress may at any time alter or amend this joint resolution, having due regard to the rights of said company, and any other parties.'' That's the rub, contend the authors, who say that this gives the public control over these lands--should we choose to use it. Jensen's (Listening to the Land) and Draffan's argument is one-sided but convincing, showing how the search for profit by such land grant companies as Plum Creek, Weyerhauser, Potlatch and Boise Cascade (companies that, under the terms of the Gorton Rider, would have access to public lands without public oversight) has hurried the disappearance of our forests. A ``checkerboard'' pattern of mixed ownership was designed to alternate railroad lands with public lands, but in fact it has only served to make management of national forests and ecosystems more difficult. This isn't beach reading, and occasionally the authors are a bit heavy-handed driving home their point. But with its historic background, company profiles, analysis of the effects of overcutting and of the practice of exporting wood, as well as suggestions for citizen action, this book is a worthy contribution to the continuing debate over use of public lands. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 07/03/1995
Release date: 07/01/1995
Genre: Nonfiction
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