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George A. Rentschler Lecture

American Heritage Center

The George A. Rentschler Distinguished Visiting Lecture series is made possible by an endowment established by Frederick B. Rentschler and his mother, the late Rita Rentschler Cushman.


2018 Lecture - M. Margaret McKeown

mckeown.margaretThe University of Wyoming American Heritage Center hosted The Honorable Margaret McKeown to lecture on “Do Trees Still Have Standing? The Environmental Legacy of Justice William O. Doulas and the Wyoming Muries”, on March 26th, 2018 at 4:00 PM at the Marian H. Rochelle Gateway Center.

Judge McKeown is a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. A 2017 recipient of the University of Wyoming Distinguished Alumni Award.

Description of Project: I became fascinated with the Muries through my work as a board member of the Murie Center. This project will explore the relationship between Justice William 0. Douglas, a controversial Supreme Court Justice who has been dubbed "the environmental justice," and Olaus and Mardy Murie, conservation pioneers from Wyoming. Together they were a force of nature in conservation advocacy. When the Murie name comes up in connection with the environment, the response is often, "Oh, you mean Muir." Indeed, both of the Muries were recipients of the Sierra Club's John Muir Award.  But they were much more. This project is an effort to give further voice to the Murie legacy so that the response will be, "Oh, yes, you mean the Muries--Olaus and Mardy."

The Muries are a Wyoming treasure and a key part of Wyoming history. This project will expand the research on their remarkable contributions to conservation3 and environmental legislation. It will also provide a novel and interesting perspective on the link between Douglas, a famous public figure, and the modest­ yet highly accomplished-Muries, and the strategies they used to achieve such successful results.

Each of these individuals were impressive conservationists in their own right. Olaus was a prominent wildlife biologist, nature illustrator, and director of the Wilderness Society; his wife Mardy accompanied him on many field trips and became a vocal environmental activist and later joined the Council of the Wilderness Society. They lived at the Murie Ranch in Moose, Wyoming, part of the Grand Teton National Park. Between them they contributed significantly to writings about wildlife and the wilderness, including A Field Guide to Animal Tracks, Alaska-Yukon Caribou, Wapiti Wilderness, Two in the Far North, and Journeys to the Far North. Since his childhood, Douglas was drawn to nature and the outdoors. He was an avid hiker and explorer and a prolific writer about mountains, wilderness, and nature. His writing ranged from authoring Of Men and Mountains; My Wilderness: The Pacific West; and Beyond the High Himalayas to penning A Wilderness Bill of Rights. A decade after his appointment to the Court in 1939, Justice Douglas embarked on an extraordinary path of personal advocacy on behalf of conservation causes.

Together, Douglas and the Muries changed the American conservation landscape. Their relationship was punctuated  by three seminal hikes that led to public awareness of wilderness issues and ultimately resulted in major legislation and executive action to preserve these areas. They also combined forces with others to achieve passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964, which characterized wilderness as "an area where the earth and its community  of life are untrammeled  by many,  where man himself is a visitor who does not remain." Sadly, Olaus died the year before his dedicated  work on this endeavor came to  fruition.

In addition to chronicling the background and accomplishments of the key players, the project will explore three marquee hikes in detail, document their historic significance, and delve into the details of the advocacy undertaken by both the Muries and Douglas on these projects and

Olaus met Douglas in 1954 on a historic 184-mile hike on the C&O Canal, which  is located along the Potomac River in Washington, D.C.  The hike was prompted  by Douglas's challenge to the Washington Post editors to accompany him on the canal in an effort to stave off a proposal to build a parkway in this pristine area. Only nine men finished the hike (no women were permitted to go), and they were later called the "Immortal Nine," a tagline that helped foster the bond between Douglas and Olaus. The area was designated a National Monument in 1961, and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park was established in 1971.

Two years later, in 1956, the Muries invited Douglas to Alaska as part of the Sheenjek expedition. They hoped that Douglas's prominence would help them promote wilderness status for the Arctic Wildlife Refuge and the famous Brooks Range.   Olaus and other scientists,  including George Schaller, Bob Krear, and   Brina Kessel, conducted field surveys and scientific exploration while Douglas and his wife joined them for part of the trip. Olaus had done early field work in Alaska before moving to Wyoming in 1927, and he and other biologists were concerned about destruction of the Arctic through drilling.   Just four years after the    expedition, following a concerted lobbying effort informed by the expedition,  the area was designated a federal protected area. After Olaus's death and with considerable support from Mardy, in 1980 Congress passed the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, which designated 157 million acres for special protection.

The third hike took place in 1958 in Olympic National Park. This much-publicized protest hike was organized to highlight the effort to prevent the construction of a road along a pristine beach area. Once again, Douglas was enlisted by Murie and other conservationists, including Polly Dyer from Seattle and Howard Zahniser from the Wilderness Society, in the hope that his presence would provide necessary gravitas to save the area. The road was never built.

All three contributed important skills to their conservation efforts. Olaus Murie brought to the table a science background and extensive field work in Wyoming    and Alaska, as well as his perch as director of the Wilderness Society; he was a   detail person whose careful documentation supported his arguments for wilderness preservation. Mardy Murie was his partner in advocacy and a careful chronicler of species,  trips, and observations.

Parallel to his work as a justice on the Supreme Court, Douglas maintained an incredibly active action campaign on behalf of multiple environmental causes. His papers are filled with letter after letter to ranking officials, such as the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture and members of Congress, seeking action on specific projects. Douglas promoted "Committees of Correspondence," which he saw as an effort to coordinate local and national action. He championed the projects he worked on with the Muries, as well as dozens of other endeavors. These endeavors, while undertaken in the public interest, raise judici l ethics questions about the blending of his role as a justice and an advocate. Particularly of note was his service on the board of the Sierra Club and his later landmark dissent in Sierra Club v. Morton, 405 U.S. 727 (1972), colloquially referred to as the "should trees have standing" decision.

Finally, the project will assess the impact of this remarkable partnership of advocacy and query whether it was a special moment in time, whether there are lessons from the intersection of science and law, and whether contemporary restrictions on justices constrain their contributions to the public interest.

Research Outcome and Publication: I anticipate initially publishing a significant manuscript/article that can be expanded into a book. In addition, I expect to participate in public and academic meetings and lectures on the Douglas legacy, the Murie legacy, and their joint legacy.

Overview of Research: The project entails systematic review of original source material maintained primarily at the Library of Congress (the Douglas papers); the University of Wyoming American Heritage Center (Murie Papers); the Denver Public Library Western History Collection (Murie, Wilderness Society, and conservation history collections); and the Murie Center and the Teton Science  School in Jackson, Wyoming (Murie papers, field notes, and specimens). Other archival documents will also be reviewed, subject to time and resources, including the University of Washington Special Collections, the Murie family papers at the University of Alaska, and materials at the Yakima Valley Museum.  In addition,  there will be interviews of key players and consultation of background articles, books, films, diaries, and personal  notes.

The project will celebrate the spirt of conservation and the wilderness. As Mardy said, "I hope that the United States of America is not so rich that she can afford to let these wildernesses pass by or so poor that she cannot afford to keep them."

Biographical Information-- M. Maragaret McKeown

Maragaret garet McKeown is passionate about the Murie legacy and committed to publishing a new perspective about Olaus and Mardy Murie and Justice William 0 . Douglas. She knows and loves nature, the mountains, and the wilderness, hikes frequently, and was a member of the first American mountain climbing expedition  to Mt. Shishapangma (26,289') in Tibet.

Judge McKeown was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for  the Ninth Circuit in 1998. Prior to that time, she was a litigation partner in Perkins Coie, a major law firm in Seattle, Washington and Washington, D.C. She received her B.A. Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Wyoming in 1972 and her J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center in 1975. She received an honorary doctorate from Georgetown University in 2005.  A Wyoming native, she worked  for Senator Clifford P. Hansen, including service as a field representative while attending college at the University of Wyoming. She has maintained contact with her home state, serving on the board of the Murie Center in Moose, Wyoming  (now an advisory committee of the Teton Science School), and speaking at her former high school and at the University of Wyoming. She was featured in "Made in Wyoming, Our Legacy of Success," Casper Star Tribune (2007).

Judge McKeown was a White House Fellow in 1980-1981, serving as Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Interior and Special Assistant at the White House.  During her time at the Interior Department, she oversaw the implementation of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, the legislation closely identified with Mardy Murie.

Judge McKeown is immediate past-President of the Federal Judges Association. She chairs the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative Board, serves on the Judicial Advisory Board for the American Society of International Law, the Managerial Board of the International Association of Women Judges, and the Council of the American Law Institute, where she has been an advisor on several key restatement of the law projects. She is a longtime board member of the Ninth Judicial Circuit Historical Society.

Judge McKeown is Jurist-in-Residence and an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego Law School and has been an adjunct faculty member at the University of Washington Law School and Georgetown University Law Center. Judge McKeown is former chair of the U.S. Judicial Conference Codes of

Conduct Committee (federal ethics committee), former chair of the ABA Judicial

Ethics Advisory Committee, and was a member of the ABA Commission to Evaluate the Model Code of Judicial Conduct. She has worked extensively with foreign judiciaries on drafting judicial codes of ethics and ethics training for judges and lawyers.

Judge McKeown lectures and teaches extensively on ethics, judicial administration, international law, litigation, human trafficking, constitutional law, and intellectual property in Latin America, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Europe.  She is also a frequent speaker and panelist at community events.

Judge McKeown has received a number of prestigious awards, including the ABA Margaret Brent Women of Achievement Award, the University of Wyoming College of Arts & Sciences Outstanding Alumnae Award, the Georgetown University Law Center Drinan Award for Public Service, the California Bar Association Intellectual Property Vanguard Award, and the Girl Scouts' "Cool Women" Award. Judge McKeown has been active in community and civic affairs, served on the national boards of Volunteers of America and Girl Scouts of th U.S.A. and is the past chair of the White House Fellows Foundation.

Judge McKeown's work requires her to be a careful researcher, attentive to details, and a prolific writer. The Ninth Circuit shoulder the heaviest appellate caseload in the United States. In addition to her hundreds of opinions for the court, selected publications include: "The Promises of a New World Information Order,"  in The Knowledge Economy (Aspen Institute, 1993); "Romancing the West," (Western Legal History, 2001); "The Lost Sanctuary: Examining Sex Trafficking Th.tough the Lens of Ah Sou," (Cornell Journal of International Law, 2008); "The Counsel Conundrum: Effective Representation in Immigration Proceedings," in Refugee Roulette: Disparities in Asylum Adjudication and Proposals for Reform (NYU Press, 2009); "Happy Birthday Statute of Anne: The Dance Between the Courts and Congress," (Berkeley Technology Law Journal, 2010); "To Judge or  Not to Judge: Transparency and Recusal in the Federal System," (The Review of Litigation, 2011); "The Internet and the Constitution: A Selective Retrospective," (Washington Journal of Law, Technology & Arts, 2014); "Culinary Ambiguity: A Canonical Approach to Deciphering Menus," (Harvard Journal on Legislation, 2014); Business and Commercial Litigation in Federal Courts 3rd (ABA, 2014); "Censorship in the Guise of Authorship: Harmonizing Copyright and the First Amendment," (Chicago Kent Journal of Intellectual Property Law, 2015); and "Beginning with Brown: Springboard for Gender Equality and Social Change,"  (San Diego Law Review, 2015).


2011 Lecture - Michael Barson

Michael Barson - 2011 Rentschler LecturerMichael Barson is the American Heritage Center 2011 George A. Rentschler Distinguished Lecturer. He discussed -his book, RED SCARED! THE COMMIE MENACE IN PROPAGANDA AND POPULAR CULTURE, on August 30, 2011, at the UW American Heritage Center from 3:00pm to 4:00pm in the Wyoming Stock Growers' Room.

Michael Barson holds a Ph.D. in American culture, and with Steven Heller wrote Wedding Bell Blues and Teenage Confidential, both published by Chronical Books. He lives in New Jersey.

About the book: A wry tour of the frosty decades of American/Soviet adversity, the book humorously recounts the days when anti-Communist hysteria provoked fairly hysterical cultural reactions. The book vibrantly reproduces the books, films, magazines, posters, games, and other media that trumpeted the Commie threat.


2009 Lecture - Bob Wynn

Bob Wynn DirectingThe American Heritage Center of the University of Wyoming hosted Mr. Robert H. Wynn, a producer/director in television (ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS). He spoke about the television industry on Thursday, March 26 th at the Stock Growers Room at 2:30 p.m. Mr. Wynn is the 2009 lecturer for the George A. Rentschler Distinguished Visiting Lecture Series which has hosted lectures from scholars, experts, and famous personalities since 1992.

Bob Wynn earned the reputation of “The Boss” during a career of more than thirty years and 200 shows as producer/director of such shows as “Tennessee Ernie Williams Nashville-Moscow Express”, “Bob Hope on the Road to China”, “Conversations with the Presidents”, and “Real People” for NBC. He has worked with the entertainment industries’ most luminous stars - Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Sammy Davis,Jr., Liza Minnelli, Lucille Ball, Debbie Reynolds and many others. In his new book, I Used to be Somebody (2009, Tate Publishing), Mr. Wynn tells the colorful and surprising stories of his experiences, traversing the world and the travails of an industry fraught with intrigues, jealousies and bigotry which Mr. Wynn ultimately would not tolerate. Mr. Wynn addressed issues featured on the television show “Real People” as well as memorable highlights of his long and successful career in television.


2008 Lecture - Brock Evans

Brock EvansBrock Evans, the 2008 George A. Rentschler Distinguished Visiting Lecturer, also known as M. Brock Evans, is a conservationist and civic leader. He served as the Northwest representative of the Sierra Club and of the Federation of Western Outdoor Clubs from 1967 to 1973, as acting director and director of the Washington D.C. office of the Sierra Club from 1973 to 1981, and as vice president for national issues for the National Audubon Society from 1981 to 1996. Evans also was the Audubon representative to the Ancient Forest Alliance circa 1988 to 1994. He also served on the board of a number of other environmental organizations, including the League of Conservation Voters and the Environmental Law Institute.

Brock Evans: "Essentially my basic observation, and theme, is that ‘environmentalism’ has always been a strong and deep part of American culture, just as much as other values, such as equality, opportunity, rule of law, etc. We may call it by different names, there have been ups and downs, and we may debate the specifics fiercely, but the fact that all these laws and all these acres are still there, despite many attempts to weaken them, and they are increasing, not diminishing, proves over and over what that British Ambassador said in 1912: ‘National Parks (and by inference, the Wilderness Act and the Endangered Species Act) are the best idea America has ever had . . . .’”


2007 Lecture - Ian Phimister

Ian Phimister, the 2007 George A. Rentschler Distinguished Visiting Lecturer, is a professor in the History Department of The University of Sheffield. His research interests lie in the history of nineteenth and twentieth century Africa, and particularly in the overseas interests of the City of London in the same period. He has written or co-authored several books on the economic and social history of Zimbabwe, as well as more than 50 articles on aspects of African history and British overseas economic expansion. Professor Phimister teaches nineteenth and twentieth century African history at all levels. He also teaches a general course on Britain’s retreat from empire.

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