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Political Science Students Explore Public Land Management Methods Hands-On in Moab, UT

May 15, 2023

A photo of a rock arch in Moab

Adam Brown, the course instructor of POLI 325, recently took his Politics of Public Lands class down to the Moab area to see dinosaur tracks, petroglyphs, national parks, national monuments, and land owned by the Bureau of Land Management.

Politics of Wilderness, National Parks, and Public Land Management (POLI 325) is an environmental politics course focused on public land management that includes experiential field trips throughout the semester.

Students studied and observed the different methods various agencies have used to manage landmarks. In a discussion in class, students commented on their insights.

“Having classes with a hands-on approach allows me to maintain the information that's taught, stay attentive, and apply the material I learn to the real world,” says Dallin Hoyt, a political science major from Wyoming. He continues, “POLI 325 was an eye-opening class because it is exactly what education should look like.”

A photo of students hiking in Arches National Park

Amy Kurtzweil, a junior from Kentucky studying political science, shared, “This trip was helpful in getting an understanding of the bureaucratic process and what it looks like to create and pass policy and legislation,” says Kurtzweil.

While looking at the policies, students discussed possible solutions that would provide ways for tourists to enjoy public sites while also protecting the land and historical monuments from vandalism and environmental disruption.

Elisabeth Currit, a senior studying environmental science and sustainability, shared her perspective on the issue of air pollution in the parks: “Because of the great number of people visiting and driving all in one area like through Zion Canyon to the main area of arches, air quality, especially with ozone, is usually very poor.” Other issues that stem from over-tourism create less enjoyment due to overcrowding, animals developing food attraction behavior, and harm to natural habitats.

One productive solution to the issue of overcrowding was Arches’ new timed entry system.

“You didn't have to apply for a permit. You didn't have to pay anything. You just had to go online before your visit to the park and reserve your time slot there.” Continues Currit, “This was really effective in regulating the number of people that came in and also made people more mindful in planning their visits.”

Students found that each park came with its unique challenges and possibilities in land management. “There definitely isn't a one size fits all solution,” says Kurtzweil. “I think the biggest takeaway is that you have to look at the exact site, the audience, and the purpose of the land to decide how best to manage it.”

The students shared how Dr. Brown's connection with the students and his passion for his profession, translated to the classroom experience, elevating the class to another level.

Adam Johnson, a senior studying political science, noted how learning about landmark policies has helped him understand how public policy interacts with public interests and public opinion. Says Johnson, “Dr. Brown is a phenomenal teacher. This was an incredible experience for me and other students. I hope the University recognizes that it was money well spent to further the aims and missions of BYU.”

A group photo of the political science students in Arches National Park

Student Bios

Dallin Hoyt is a senior from Wyoming with a double major in Spanish and Political Science. He finds hands-on experiences to be the best and most important part of education. Post graduation, he aspires to work in diplomacy and foreign service. Dallin is an avid rock climber and skier in the winter.

Amy Kurtzweil is a senior from Louisville, Kentucky studying Political Science. She hopes to work with policy and enjoys learning about the needs of different demographics in the country. Outside of school, she enjoys hiking, traveling, reading, playing tennis, and spending time with friends.

Elisabeth Currit, a senior from Kingsbury, TX, is an environmental science and sustainability major with a minor in international development. She is deeply passionate about a wide range of social and environmental issues, including air pollution, gender equality, environmental justice, and public lands management. While at BYU, she’s had the opportunity to research and write about many of these topics with a wide range of professors and students from various departments. Elisabeth loves to read, spend time outside, and take care of her astounding number of plants (this number is continually growing). After completing her undergraduate degree, she plans to attend grad school and study recreation ecology and public land management.

Adam Johnson grew up in Woodland Hills, Utah, in the foothills of the Wasatch Mountain Range. He is an avid mountain biker, rock climber, and hiker. He is currently a senior at Brigham Young University where he studies political science and international strategy. His emphasis is foreign policy in South East Asia. He is actively involved in environmental law research at the J. Reuben Clark Law School and previously held the position of President of the BYU Honors Program Leadership Council. He also has experience in the non-profit sector, leading and participating in start-ups that focus on social impacts in education and the environment.