Today marks the start of my last week at the SELC. I am not happy about that at all! There are still so many things I want to work on to educate myself. I hope after graduation in May that I may be able to volunteer my time to the SELC to continue assisting them with research... we shall see.
I turned in early this AM to my boss my revised version of the Memo. She wanted to have this revision now to look over, while I work on supplemental materials. These supplemental materials are additional research on three other collaborative groups as well as my giving a succinct summary on the "Tester Bill" aka Senate Bill #1470 Forest Jobs & Recreation Act (Beaverhead-Deerlodge, Kootenai, and Lolo National Forests). This bill was introduced in the 111th Congress by Senator Jon Tester (D-MT). This bill never became law, after being referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. The bill was a wonderful opportunity for permanent land designation -- to be designated as wilderness and SMAs (Special Management Areas). Additionally, the Tester bill discussed how off-road vehicles (ORVs) would be permitted on some lands and restricted on others. I would like to tell you more and educate you on ORVs.
ORVs are a big controversy for environmentalists. In some situations, they may be the best way to get to a specific area faster, without hiking for miles. However, many people have seen how ORVs can completely destroy what used to be a lovely landscape in many National Forests and National Parks. There are designated trails, but occasionally people will decide to do loops all over a field of wildflowers and completely destroy and erode it. Instead of following the established gravel/paved/dirt roads, they will 'create their own path' instead. These new trails are called "unplanned trails" because each road put into the USFS and NPS lands is specifically mapped and researched ahead of time. Any additional trails are destroyed land that is supposed to be preserved. What is saddening is that it is difficult, if not fiscally impossible for the already cash-strapped parks to repair this damage. Some people are so arrogant as to set up illegal off-road race tracks on these public lands. The Wilderness Society has a good article about ORVs here.
Last summer, an off-road vehicle dragged and killed a rare threatened-species female loggerhead turtle that was attempting to nest on Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Think about that, a person thought it would be fun to run over and drag a pregnant endangered animal. Believe me, these things are too big to not notice... I would compare her size (I've seen the NPS crime scene photos) to probably around the size of a six year old child. Not small. She had at the very least twenty-six baby turtle eggs in her body ready to be laid into the sand that night. Tragic, right? How many other incidents with endangered or threatened animals have occurred from people driving ORVs illegally? What's next?
Many interest groups have stirred up support for the restriction of ORVs in some areas due to these risks. I think they are pretty logical, as not everyone has an ORV, but this land is for everyone and damaging it would be unfair for the majority, right?
Late yesterday, my boss and I sat down with my Memo that I have given her (and spent sooooo much time on!). I was elated to learn that she actually was happy with what I had put together. Something she actually said was, "Your writing here is much better than what I would have expected from an undergraduate." Ding Ding Ding! That is great news!
I know some of you think I am weird to be excited, but anyone who knows the law field is aware of the fact that you must write well to be a success in law school and beyond.
"As you seek to prepare for a legal education, you should develop
a high degree of skill at written communication. Language is the
most important tool of a lawyer, and lawyers must learn to express
themselves clearly and concisely.
Legal education will provide you with good training in writing,
and particularly in the specific techniques and forms of written
expression that are common in the law. Fundamental writing skills,
however, must be acquired and refined before you enter law school.
You should seek as many experiences as possible that will require
rigorous and analytical writing, including preparing original pieces
of substantial length and revising written work in response to constructive
As this assignment required a lot of research that I was not completely familiar with (especially technical terms), I was thrilled to learn that she was happy with what I had put together as a draft document. This internship has certainly helped me in my analytical and refining skills. It is sometimes hard when you have five classes and have three papers due on the same day to not add in the occasional fluff to your paper. When I am working in an office, I find that the quality of my work is significantly better, because I am able to genuinely apply the time needed for a document.
What I must do now is add onto the document and go over her suggestions. I need to fully correct the document which will extend it from being four pages long to probably around six. I have written papers much longer than that before, however, this Memo will likely be distributed to others and that makes it much more important! My boss mentioned that it was good of me to write less than more as it helped me keep my words on-point.
I hope to finish the corrections and edits by close of business today, otherwise I may have some work to do over the weekend!
Today was an exhausting day! I was able to finish my Memo to turn into my boss in the AM. I was so tired from working on the Memo and going to my other job (I tutor some local kids in the evenings) and so I was just guzzling the caffeinated sodas down in the hopes that I would perk up! Did I have any luck? No. But I did learn today that even when you get enough sleep, sometimes you just end up tired and weary after a long work week.
The past week I have been working on a Memorandum for my boss. In law offices, Memos are a common thing used to give your objective opinion on a case or an assignment. Sometimes they are used as an interoffice document just to talk about a meeting or conference call. These memos are great summaries for busy attorneys. They can be used as resources, to help familiarize newly-assigned attorneys to a case they have never seen before and use them to prep themselves for oral arguments or to file case briefs in court. I have learned over the years that every office has their own format. Sometimes they have multiple formats. But when you are asked to do a memo, you need to be aware of the time line in which it is needed to be completed and how you should fill it out. Even something (to an outsider) as "minor" as headings could be a huge deal for the larger law firms, called "BigLaw."
My memo that I have been working on is not very formal, at least not today. It may turn out that way later on this week. Currently, the memo is my telling my attorney some background information/summary on all of the collaborative agreements I have found, then I break down each collaborative agreement with specific items she finds important, then I will close with a conclusion summary. I also need to do a very important thing for my boss. I need to cite every major point I make, with a link or a basic APA format citation, so that when she is putting her own documents together, she can cross-reference these items. I have been pouring over them and I hope I didn't forget to cite something! I am normally really careful of these things, especially thanks to classes I have had here at Randolph-Macon.
Citing things and giving your sources really is used in the real world. Something to think about, right?
One thing I have learned since starting this internship, is learning that there are organizations that are parts of other organizations. Then, there are organizations that are for-profit and organizations that are non-profit. They may not be 501(c)(3) organizations, but they are not big for-profit groups either. It has been a very confusing a complicated process.
One of the main organizations I have used in my research for my boss is the National Forest Foundation. This Foundation was officially founded by Congress to help in the funding of the National Forest and Grasslands of America. The Foundation says that:
National Forests and Grasslands provide Americans with 193-million spectacular acres of wildlands
9,126 miles of scenic byways to drive
148,295 miles of trails to hike
4,418 miles of wild and scenic rivers to float
5,107 campgrounds in which to pitch our tents
And 328 natural pools to swim in
If you think about it, what would the United States look like without our forests and grasslands? Isn't that a terrible thought? This country would be less attractive and even our patriotic song "America the Beautiful" wouldn't sound right without the lines "For amber waves of grain/For purple mountain majesties/Above the fruited plain." It certainly is something to consider.
With my project, the National Forest Foundation ("NFF") has been influential in guiding me along to find parks that may benefit our GWNF project. The NFF has been a major factor in some collaborative mentoring between the National Forest and key stakeholder groups. In the past, the National Forest may have made some quick actions that upset or offended the public. The recent trend of collaboration has assisted many National Forests in repairing that lost trust and developing wonderful working relationships with all kinds of people. These collaboration projects are so important, because even if you have never been to a National Forest, you need to know that these lands are public lands, they are your lands, and so your opinion is valid and should always be heard!
I am working on a project that involves the George Washington National Forest ("GWNF"), and I thought you all would appreciate learning more about what this National Forest is about. The GWNF is officially called the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, but most people call it in shorthand the George Washington National Forest. This forest is located in Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky. It is not a small forest, but it isn't the largest in the National Forest system, either.
There are almost 2 million acres in the GWNF, and less than 150,000 acres have been designated as Wilderness Area, which actually is not a lot if you think about it. A wilderness designation in the National Forest system is the ultimate tool for protection, as the National Forest system allows loggers and roads to exist on designated lands. If a land is set aside as wilderness, then those lands will remain in their most pure state... while allowing hikers and campers to still enjoy them. Other designations are National Scenic Area, National Recreation Area and others. These designations are officially declared as such by Congressional action in a bill proposed and passing in Congress... These actions can have favorable and unfavorable results (depending on who you talk to). The National Forest system has a very thin line to tread on when they work on these projects, but we can all agree that more protected lands in their natural condition is a wonderful thing.
The GWNF was first established in 1918, with the Natural Bridge National Forest added to it in 1933. The Jefferson National Forest was added in 1936. There are lots of historical buildings, bridges and other facilities used that were put together by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the New Deal, too. Many generations have enjoyed the forests.
I grew up with portions of it just up the road from my hometown, so
being assigned to a project in this area is important to me.
Interestingly enough, the Blue Ridge Parkway, under the National Park
Service, runs through the GWNF. You can see both from my parents house
in Rockbridge County, Virginia! I have learned with this project that
you have to separate your personal feelings on these projects otherwise
you can end up being upset if the results are not in your favor.
Wow! I am coming to a close towards the end of my second week here at SELC, and I still need to let you all know what I have been working on!
As a note: Because this office is technically a law office, I have to follow some basic laws of confidentiality while writing on this blog. Sometimes you will see me write things in a lot of detail and other times not so much. It just depends on the assignment and the task!
I have been working on one specific assignment since I started last Monday. I was asked by my Lead Attorney to do some research in relation to United States Forest Service 'Forest Plans'. These plans are similar to zoning and land management plans only they exclusively involve USFS property, which are considered 'public lands', over a long period of time. What my attorney needed me to do was figure out what (if any) collaborative agreements have occurred between the USFS and third party groups like the SELC. And if I did come across some collaborative agreements involving this kind of relationship, how did they negotiate their terms?
Well, this task is significant to the office and my Lead Attorney so last Monday I spent the entire day educating myself on terminology and covering a lot of basic reading that would help me with my research.
It was very hard to me to get up to par with what my Lead Attorney actually needed. There were times where I thought I had some great research, but it was not exactly what she needed. I have learned from this internship, already!, how it is not uncommon to do research where nothing can be used. Then again, I have found some documents that have been exactly what my attorney was looking for and so she was appreciative for the additional information that I could find for her. One example is my coming across some "Memorandum of Agreement or Understanding" which are often called "MOUs" in shorthand. An MOU is a generic term for most lawyers. But in our situation, when it comes to finding an official document which breaks down an agreement and/or action between multiple parties, this kind is ideal and really helps with what we are working on in the office.
My Lead Attorney is one of about 30 between the Charlottesville offices (there are two, both on the Downtown Mall). The offices are gorgeous and organized with a lot of big open spaces and large windows. A lot of the elements within the office are environmentally-friendly! All of the staff is friendly and helpful. It has been so nice working at my desk throughout the day and occasionally being greeted by passers-by going to and from meetings. I really enjoy it here and often find the time has passed faster than I had anticipated... always a good thing, right?
I started my internship on Monday, January 3, 2011. I will be interning this January term with the Southern Environmental Law Center in Charlottesville, Virginia. Each day, I hope to give everyone a run-down on things I have learned, issues I have come across while at work and thoughts or observations.
I am sure most of you reading this blog have no idea who the Southern Environmental Law Center ("SELC") is. The SELC is a regionally-based organization that works to represent and address environmental issues throughout the Southeast. The SELC works with dozens of stakeholder/interest groups to collaborate with local/state/federal governments to resolve these problems and bring their own perspective to the table. They have several offices and I am working at their headquarters in Charlottesville!
Some of the issues that I may be touching on this J-term will involve forestry issues with public lands which could possibly involve coal mining, logging, wilderness areas, roadless areas or the restoration of the longleaf pine tree.
I hope you enjoy learning new things along with me!
Please check the SELC out at http://SouthernEnvironment.org.