Saul Levin

MUP

A Green New Deal for Federal Lands: Lessons from the Redwoods National Park Expansion for a Just Transition

Advised by Abby Spinak

Federal lands cover roughly one quarter of United States lands and account for one quarter of US carbon dioxide emissions. As a result of this heavy emissions profile and singular federal ownership, public lands have increasingly been cited as a potential site for rapid, large-scale decarbonization in response to the escalating climate crisis. The core question in assessing this possibility is how the transition can be just and, therefore, how it can account for those most affected: workers and indigenous communities. This thesis presents a possible response by developing a critical analysis of the expansion of Redwoods National Park in 1978, which kicked an extractive, nonrenewable industry off lands in the watershed of the tallest trees in the world. The legislation that expanded the park included unprecedented provisions that gave workers substantial and concrete compensation and created a large-scale restoration ecology program that rehired dispossessed workers to reverse industry destruction of the land. Through telling this story, and exploring the strategy, process, and challenges that brought such unlikely results about, I offer a key precedent for a just transition on federal lands. In so doing, I demonstrate that a just transition away from fossil fuel extraction on US federal lands is possible and explore how it might underpin a Green New Deal for all federal lands.

Saul Levin, MUP. A photograph of redwood trees.
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