Natural Resources Journal Celebrates 50 Years of Publication

From the first issue that came off the press in 1961, the Natural Resources Journal (NRJ) has been unique among the field of legal journals. Never before had a legal journal concentrated on a single subject, nor been led by a member of the faculty.

The journal was the first academic legal journal to be produced by University of New Mexico School of Law students and it set for itself an interdisciplinary focus, welcoming articles from not only academics, but technical professionals in the field as well.

LeRoy Hansen
U.S. District Judge LeRoy Hansen (`61) visits with a friend at an NRJ 50th anniversary reception.

LeRoy Hansen (`61) chaired the board of editors that first year and remembered putting out the inaugural issue as an arduous undertaking. In addition to Hansen, the editors were Warren Reynolds (`61), Bill Snead (`61) and James Womack (`61), half of the graduating class of eight.

“At the time, New Mexico was at the center of natural resources interests and we all thought it would be fun to participate in a New Mexico law journal,” said Hansen, who went on to become a federal judge and is now a senior judge on the U.S. District Court. “But it was a real trying experience. We were given a room on the second floor of Bratton Hall. We’d all be in there working together at a long table.”

The first issue included articles titled, “Nuclear Explosions for Peaceful Purposes,” by William Berman and Lee Hydeman, “The Choice of Use in Resource Management,” by Gilbert White and “Forfeiture, Notice and Demand and Judicial Ascertainment Clauses in Oil and Gas Leases,” by Howard Williams and Charles Meyers. A New Mexico section became a regular feature and focused on important developments in New Mexico law.

NRJ 1968
Professor Al Utton, r, goes over an issue with members of the 1968 editorial board (l-r): Ted Jones ('68), Ralph Smith ('68), Patrick Hurley ('68) and Richard Cole ('68).

A year later, Professor Al Utton joined the UNM law faculty and took over as editor-in-chief, replacing Jack Kroner, a visiting professor from New York University School of Law, who had served as the journal’s first faculty adviser and editor.  

For the next 33 years, Utton led the journal, working with student editors and contributors to publish one of the most respected journals of its kind in the world. Rather than passing off editorial duties to the newest member of the faculty, as was typical of academic journals, Utton made the journal integral to his own scholarship.

As he developed into one of the world’s leading scholars in transboundary resource law and policy, Utton used the journal as a teaching tool. He convened national scholars at NRJ symposia and subsequently published their papers and presentations in an upcoming issue of the journal, and through the journal, he advanced his international and transboundary projects.

Early issues included an article by Archibald Cox, when he was solicitor general of the United States, and a speech by Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall, presented as a Simms lecturer at the UNM School of Law.   

2003 Symposium
Robert Freilich makes a point during a 2003 NRJ symposium that looked at growth management.

“Its multidisciplinary focus made it stand out,” said Professor Emeritus Em Hall, who served as editor-in-chief from 2001-2007. “Historians, lawyers, economists and hydrologists wrote articles.”

Ten years after its first issue, the NRJ spawned the New Mexico Law Review, which has been on its own ever since. Professor Suedeen Kelly led the NRJ for six years after Utton stepped down in 1995.

As the environmental movement exploded, so did the number of resources-focused journals. As a result, the NRJ is now one of many environmental journals. It can now be read online and because of the ever-growing competition for articles, beginning with the 51st volume, the NRJ will be published twice a year.

Redd Benson
Professor Reed Benson at the 2010 Water-Energy Conundrum symposium.

When he joined the faculty in 2008, Professor Reed Benson became the faculty editor. In his second year he led strategic planning efforts that resulted in important changes to the journal.  Most notably, third-year students now have editorial leadership, as with most law journals, and Benson now serves as faculty adviser. While maintaining its multi-disciplinary focus, the journal will begin concentrating more on legal articles, especially those about natural resources law and policy in the Southwest.

Melissa Kennelly (`10) and Scott Stromberg (`10) were co-editors of the 50th anniversary volume, the first issue of which was published in October 2010. Both Kennelly and Stromberg enjoyed the opportunity to delve deeper into the natural resources field, of which they have a keen interest.

Eileen Gauna
Professor Eileen Gauna (`85) leads a discussion during the Water-Energy Conundrum symposium.

The job had not grown any easier since LeRoy Hansen led the editorial team, but it remained just as important. For Vol. 50, issue 1, Kennelly and Stromberg assembled a group of renowned environmental scholars for contributions that addressed water policy reform, federal lands in the 21st century, the national park system and solar rights. They also organized a symposium titled, “The Water-Energy Conundrum: Water Constraints on New Energy Development in the Southwest.” Those presentations will be published in the third issue of Vol. 50.

“It was rewarding working with the authors and fellow students,” said Stromberg. “Different perspectives are needed, especially when laws and policy affect everyday individuals.”

That discussion is certain to continue among the pages of the NRJ.

October 26, 2010