The Antiquities Act and the Maine Woods


Two weeks ago President Trump and High-Horse Rider Ryan Zinke tossed the Antiquities Act off the top of a waterfall. What’ll be left of it after everything washes out below is anybody’s guess. Most of the focus, in the media and around the environmental community, has been on Bear’s Ears and Escalante-Grand Staircase. Understandably so – they got announced first, and Trump’s shrinking them. Or trying to; I think he’ll succeed. But the monument nearest to my heart isn’t any Utah canyon or California mountain, carved out of dusty BLM land. It’s in Maine. It’s mostly damp woods. And it owes its existence to chapstick. Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument (an awkward name, so I’m calling it KWW the rest of the way) is a gift to America that may allow us to return, a little, to the primeval New England that my Puritan ancestors found when they trudged up the beach after sailing from England. But with the release of the Zinke Report, it’s probably going to get logged. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. The key is in the quirky language of the quirky old Antiquities Act.

The Antiquities Act of 1906 allows presidents to turn any stretch of federal land into a national monument – almost the same thing as a national park – more or less immediately, on their own, after hardly any consultation with anyone. This is unlike any other power that the President wields. Some of our most iconic national parks –Zion! Acadia! The Grand Canyon! – started out as National Monuments. The Act originated in a desire to preserve archaeological treasures like the famous cliff dwellings of the Southwest; the first and third sections of the Act are specifically about these sorts of site. But the second section’s “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest” were understood, from the get-go, to include landscape-scale preserves. Zinke wrinkles his eyebrows at landscape preservation under the Act (this is one of roughly a hundred things wrong with the report) but there is no reason that ecological wonders are any less important than geological ones. If Zinke doesn’t like it he can take it up with the ghost of Teddy Roosevelt, who surely rides bumptiously through the hallways of the Department of the Interior to this day. In 1908, with the Act still fresh, President Roosevelt protected 800,000 acres of Grand Canyon.

While he was doing this, in the other corner of the country, the woods of Northern Maine were about the last wilderness left in the Northeast. Northern Maine had wolves, and even caribou, until the 1890s. Also, unlike in many parts of New England, there was (and is) a strong Native presence as well – the Penobscot Nation has been there since time out of mind.

The Maine woods, whether you’ve been there or not, have a lot to do with what you, as an American, think about nature. If any landscape in America is an Antiquity, a treasure of America’s cultural heritage, it is this one. Everyone knows that environmental founding father Henry David Thoreau sat in his cabin at Walden Pond and thought profound thoughts about nature there, but he was still pretty much in Concord, Massachusetts when he did this. As his critics will gleefuly tell you, his mother did his laundry for him in those days. For Thoreau, real wilderness was the forests and hills around Mt. Katahdin, and his mixture of awe and terror when he actually went up there, in the 1840s and 1850s, has been felt by many a backpacker ever since. In 1879 Theodore Roosevelt, a citified young man of 21, went up to northern Maine himself, and it was there that America’s great environmental president began to carve himself into the rugged outdoorsman that we remember now. On into the 20th century, as Americans began to explore the National Parks and Forests that Roosevelt established, thousands of them did so adorned with packs, boots, jackets, sweaters (the list goes on) that carried the name of Leon Leonwood Bean. LL Bean dominated American outdoor gear for decades, and from its canoes to its ads to its Tinder-esque catalogue, Bean showed Americans how to thrive in the North Woods, and everyplace else.

One of the Americans swept down the same stream as Thoreau, Roosevelt, and Bean was Roxanne Quimby, a tent-dwelling Seventies hippie in rural Maine. Living a hard scrabble life, she eventually partnered with her beekeeping friend Burt Shavits, started making lip balm, and built up the skin care company Burt’s Bees. You’ve seen Burt’s face in stores all over America. In the mid-2000s, Roxanne sold her parts of the business, and made hundreds of millions of dollars.

She decided to buy land. “I can think of no better thing to do with Burt’s Bees profits than to return them to the earth,” is how she put it. She turned her eyes to the forests of northern Maine. The main(e) industry there had been timber, but by the 21st century, the timber companies weren’t making much money, and Quimby was able to buy huge tracts of land relatively cheap. Her hope was to buy enough to make a national park. Eventually, she had 87,000 acres – not huge, but bigger than, say, Arches, or Acadia – adjacent to 210,000-acre Baxter State Park (where Mt. Katahdin is). Along with a vision of conservation, she hoped that a park would bring a stream of tourists – 21st-century versions of young Teddy Roosevelt – to one of the most economically depressed parts of Maine. But a lot of people in Northern Maine opposed it, and still do.

The core of the problem (along with the usual rural suspicions about outsiders and the federal government) was a fear that this would impinge on “traditional uses” like hunting, fishing, and snowmobiling. Funny thing is, these traditional uses…were of other people’s land.

At this point I have to say that I have a lot of sympathy for the people of northern Maine in this. When I was a kid in New Hampshire, the hills behind my house were mostly owned (or operated, anyway – I never knew the specifics) by a forest company. It was on a smaller scale than in Northern Maine, I am sure, but we’re still talking about a landscape of hundreds of acres. Some of the most joyous times of my life have been spent hiking or skiing through the forest company’s trees. More broadly, in the village where I lived, it was usual to run into a neighbor in your woods. Nobody thought much of it – if anything, it was a nice surprise when it happened. It would have been weird to bar other people from your land. So I understand the feelings at play here.

However. My fear (a fear that I still feel) was that the forest company would sell the land to a developer and turn the hillsides into condos. But I never, even at my teenager-est, believed that the company owed me anything. The only response, to prevent this from happening, would have been to buy the land myself. Our familiar woods and hills may feel like public property, but they are not.

So. While the timber companies in the Katahdin area were happy to let the public hunt around their trees – it was cheap public relations, at least – the companies were not beholden to the public in any way. When they sold their private property to another private party, the new owner could do what she wanted, within the law. America is not Sweden, where anyone can travel through anyone else’s land. I’ll bet that the same people who complain about losing traditional uses would also call themselves property rights advocates, and would hate it if the government passed a law opening up their land to the public.

Even after years of meetings and negotiation between the Quimby/St. Clair family (Roxanne’s son Lucas St. Clair is the point person on the issue) and other stakeholders, the pushback was such that the Maine delegation, wishing to get some votes from the North Woods, declined to introduce legislation to make a national park. The next option was the Antiquities Act. President Obama created KWW in August 2016.

Funnily enough, the lands’ transfer to the federal government gave Mainers more say over Katahdin Woods and Waters than they’d had before. As long as Roxanne Quimby owned the land, it wasn’t really their business.

Local fears are a little overblown – you can hunt and fish and snowmobile in KWW, though not in all parts of it. The only traditional use that’s missing is logging. Presumably if the land was full of valuable timber, the companies would be cutting that timber, and wouldn’t have sold their land away. But the trees, of course, keep on growing. Eventually, Katahdin Woods and Waters will be attractive timber land again.

Enter the Zinke Report. The terms of the monument will be amended to allow for “active timber management.” The understanding, at this point, is that this will apply to ensuring that forests are healthy. But the Park Service was already able to do this. So why make an spell it out this way? My guess is that it’s a marker for the future. If “active timber management” is enshrined as a managing principle of the Monument, eventually someone will want to actively manage that timber. It will be easy for a sympathetic Interior Department to interpret the phrase broadly, state that a cut is necessary for forest health, and let in the chainsaws. This is a well-established practice on other public landscapes. If (well, when) someone sues the government can point to the phrase “active timber management” and expect deference from the court in its interpretation thereof. Done and done. And while the landscape will surely retain some of its wild qualities, it will be more like a National Forest, with their many conflicting uses, than a National Monument.

What about the Antiquities Act, overall? There are lawsuits in motion right now challenging Trump’s shrinking of Bears Ears and the others. I imagine that, in the end, the administration will succeed – while I don’t favor shrinking monuments, it seems to me that the Act allows a President to do this. It’s not in the text, of course, which may give conservative judges pause…but not that much pause. The decision will stand.

Once it does, pandemonium. If a president can shrink monuments, will any monument be safe? What other landscapes will an emboldened Trump Administration target? This will, I predict, be the end of the Antiquities Act, as environmentalists worried that they might lose their beloved protections join hands with conservatives who want no new monuments, and vote for repeal. I think this will happen in the next three administrations. In the meantime, who knows what will transpire in Katahdin Woods and Waters? I bet Roxanne Quimby will wish she’d held out for a National Park.



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Scull and Crossbones


Friend or foe?

Craftsbury Common, Vermont is a town that belongs in a Robert Frost poem. It is the Vermont that the state’s department of tourism wants you to imagine. As you drive up here from the outside world, you follow the paved road – the only paved road – uphill past the old common and its dignified white buildings, by the dairy with its on-brand cows and their off-brand smell, then down through open meadows, Mt. Mansfield’s craggy ridgeline across the valley in the distance, and see, below you, boats on Great and Little Hosmer Ponds below. But, just like in a Robert Frost poem, doubt, fear, and anger flow through the bucolic landscape.

Craftsbury, like so many towns in rural New England, relies on outsiders driving their Subarus up from Boston and New York, and indeed Burlington, to spend their money having fun in the landscape. On Great Hosmer Pond, two groups of outsiders are at loggerheads: summer cabin owners, who want to waterski on their vacations, and rowers, who want to scull without being clotheslined by a tow rope. An understandable controversy – the waters of Great Hosmer belong to the public, and both rowing and waterskiing are very fun. The rowers, it’s important to mention, are mostly under the auspices of the Craftsbury Outdoor Center. The Outdoor Center has been on the pond for decades, training scullers from sleek Olympians who look like Greek statues to wobbly middle-aged executives who look like Greek salads.

But these rowers take up great swathes of Great Hosmer. The situation’s gotten pretty angry – in 2015 some of the cabin owners even picketed the Outdoor Center, massing their kayaks and motorboats and barring rowers from the water. Now the state of Vermont is drafting rules that would keep rowers off the pond in the afternoon and late evening.

But really, Great Hosmer shouldn’t have water skiers at all. The pond is 160 feet wide at its narrowest point, and according to Vermont law, boaters aren’t allowed to go more than 5 miles per hour in such places. But the cabin owners, having been there since before the rule was made, get their skiing grandfathered in. Now, credit where it’s due – the cabin owners have to be deeply committed to water-skiing to fight so hard to clear the lake that’s barely wide enough to turn the boat around. But why should they get to keep vrooming around, when the state of Vermont has (correctly) identified doing so as harmful and dangerous? Should we let people in Nantucket kill whales because it’s traditional? Should chemical companies get to dump toxic sludge in the nearest creek because that’s what they did in 1927? Of course not.

(Some scullers can get beyond 5 miles per hour, it’s true, but these people are rare enough to be a non-issue here. Coaching boats should be subject to the same restrictions as skiing boats.)

We see a lot of grandfathering in environmental policy, and in the short term, it’s understandable – people need time to adjust to new ideas. But an indefinite extension of harmful actions, and the restriction of others’ use of the public waters to facilitate those actions, is absurd. I could see some sort of grace period – five years, maybe, after the rule was made – that would give people a chance to get used to the idea and maybe sell their motorboats, but that’s about it. We live in a free society, and freely we decide amongst ourselves how to value nature and shape its future. If we’re going to make laws protecting the environment and the public’s enjoyment thereof, let’s make actual rules.

The other takeaway, from my perspective, is that the Hosmer Ponds, and the Black River into which they drain, need a watershed council. If a group of water users and property owners, and agency personnel, met regularly, knew and trusted each other, and were empowered to decide and manage the uses of their waterways within the bounds of the law, this sort of problem might have been resolved long ago. There have been some starts in this direction, and ideally the wrangle over skiing and sculling on Great Hosmer would let these efforts coalesce into something more permanent. If the vacationers and the rowers and the town got to sort these things out themselves, I bet we’d get more or less the same result, with far less acrimony. As someone once said, good fences make good neighbors.




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Tiger and Wildcats and Aggies, Oh No

It’s college football season here in South Carolina, and the neighborhoods are decked out in orange flags with pawprints on them. These paws represent Clemson’s football team, a powerhouse squad known as…the Tigers. When I got here, it seemed silly to me that we selected an Asian felid to represent our state’s college teams, and then, the more I thought on it, the more I came to realize that the whole country is filled with terrible mascot choices, and that no-one is doing anything about it. So I correct them here.


Not Tigers.
Also, all images are from Wikimedia Commons.

I have experience in the matter, as an alumnus of the schools with the best and worst nicknames in the NCAA. The Dartmouth Big Green, which came after we stopped with the Indian and couldn’t agree on anything else, satisfies no-one and says nothing. We should be the Moose. On the other hand, the University of California, Santa Cruz Banana Slugs honor a dramatic animal that is common on campus, that is unique to the region, and that is impervious to almost all predators. As a bonus, the name came as a result of student activism, which is, by far, the most popular sport at UCSC.

I’m only doing the two most prominent public institutions in each state. Public schools’ mascots are presumably supposed to represent the whole state, not just the university. Some places have more than two big schools, but I have neither the time nor the energy to evaluate all the SUNYs or whatever.

In a couple places I’m claiming names from professional teams. Pro sports franchises move all the time, which is how we got the LA Lakers and Utah Jazz. A state’s public universities cannot move by definition, and therefore deserve the best names. Also, I’m limiting names to one state. There are six or eight states that could take Bison, but in the end there can be only one.

I must note that I am directly inspired by this[1] and this[2], two of the funniest and truest things on the whole wide internet.


University of Alabama Crimson Tide

Immediately, we get a nonsensical nickname (it started with red mud, apparently) with an elephant, somehow, also involved. Now, red tides are real things – they happen when toxic reddish algae proliferate in a waterway that’s overloaded with nutrient pollution – but this isn’t what they were thinking of with the name. The Alabama Pollution are probably not going to rake in the donations necessary to equip next season’s linebackers.

Should be: Cottonmouths, both for the snake, and for the affliction that greets thousand of Alabama undergrads on Sunday mornings.


This is a Crimson Tide. Or something.

Auburn University Tigers

Our first tiger. There are no tigers roaming the forests and swamps of Alabama. There is no connection between Auburn, or any American school, and Panthera tigris. Tigers are a lazy choice by people who want a large fierce predator and use the first to come to mind. We will run into this problem again.

Should be: Eagles. They chant “War Eagle” at games and keep an actual eagle around as a mascot. There are certainly eagles in Alabama. Honestly, it’s perfect.


University of Alaska, Fairbanks Nanooks

This is an Inuit word for Polar bear. Polar bears, one of the few animals so large and fierce that they actively hunt and eat people, live in Alaska. It’s perfect.

Should be: Nanooks

University of Alaska, Anchorage Seawolves

In the Pacific Northwest, there are wolves that swim between islands, eat seals, and so on. Again, it’s perfect. I would expect nothing less from Alaska, a state rich in awesome nature.

Should be: Seawolves

Could be: Gyrfalcons, Sea Eagles, Volcanoes, Brown Bears, Musk Ox, Earthquakes, Moose, Orcas…Alaska’s got a deep bench of nicknames. As we’ll see, not all states do.


University of Arizona Wildcats

Booooooooooooring. Bobcats live pretty much everywhere in the United States. Just as appropriate in New Hampshire and Kentucky. Not to take anything away from bobcats, which are a cool animal, but come on.

Should be: Jaguars. Americans can only find them in Arizona. They could even continue to colloquially call their teams “the Cats.”

Arizona State University Sun Devils

There is no story here – some students thought up “Sun Devils” in 1946 and so it was. No legend, nothing. They were the Owls before that, and sure – owls are strong and deadly and traditionally associated with academia. But cooler than owls are…

Should be: Trogons. Americans can only find them in Arizona.

Could be: Gila Monsters, Condors, Drought, Heat, Javelinas, Cacti



University of Arkansas Razorbacks

This is a wild pig, and while I am deducting a little credit for pigs’ being invasive, this actually works really well for Arkansas.

Should be: Razorbacks

Arkansas State University Red Wolves

This SHOULD be cool – red wolves are the South’s own wolves, native here and nowhere else. But red wolves have been extirpated from Arkansas. You don’t want a mascot that you eliminated from your state in real life.

Should be: Paddlefish. Check these things out. Severely underrated.


University of California, Berkeley Golden Bears

This is a subspecies of the grizzly, the one that’s on the state flag. The last one in California was seen almost a hundred years ago. Again, don’t extirpate an animal and then make it your sigil.

Should be: Sea Lions.

University of California, Los Angeles Bruins

You could argue that this could be black bears. I saw dozens of them when I lived in California. But for California, what would be better than…

Should be: Earthquakes

Could be: Fires, Condors, Quails, Mudslides, Cougars, Protestors, Paparazzi


Colorado University Buffaloes

Strong…but “buffalo” is not the preferred nomenclature. Plus another more appropriate state has taken bison.

Should be: Avalanche

Colorado State University Rams

I assume this is a bighorn sheep. If so, a masterful choice.

Should be: Rams

Could be: Moguls


University of Connecticut “UConn” Huskies

YES. I love a good pun even more than I love geographically appropriate mascots.

Should be: Huskies

Central Connecticut State University Blue Devils

Did you know? “Blue Devils” used to be a term for depression.

Should be: Oaks. In colonial times, patriots hid their Royal Charter in an old oak tree as a step toward independence. A proud moment in Connecticut history.

Could be: Hedge Funders, Antiquers, Yachters, Nutmeggers


Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hens

It seems silly to name yourself after a species that exists to be eaten. In the meantime, there should be an annual Chicken Bowl with the University of South Carolina, just as UConn should play Washington to determine who’s the King of the Huskies.

Should be: Horseshoe Crabs. I’m well aware that Delaware has the biggest spawning area on earth for this living fossil.


 Delaware State University Hornets

Well. It’s a little state, and not enough teams go invertebrate. Sure.

Should be: Hornets

Could be: Tax Evaders


Under the radar, Florida has some huge universities. Central Florida has 60,000 students! Florida International has 54,000! And both have weak nicknames. But I’m going with the state’s flagship schools.

University of Florida Gators


Should be: Gators

Florida State University Seminoles

Hmmmmmmboy. Here we go. It is borderline impossible for a school to have a Native name and do it well. I’m aware that FSU works with the Seminole tribe and has their support in this matter and so on, and that’s good, I respect the institution’s effort. However, I’m also aware of the Tomahawk Chop/War Chant thing that their fans do. I don’t think you can have it both ways, and I don’t think that the institution can keep 40,000 college students respectful no matter how hard it tries. So I can’t support the Seminole name.

Should be: Coral Snakes

Could be: Invaders, Florida Men/Women, Yearlings, Manatees,


University of Georgia Bulldogs

Like the Wildcats, but tamer.

Should be: the Athenians. UGA’s in Athens, a cultural center for the South just as the Greek version was for classical Attica.

On which note, it has always bewildered me that no schools choose to honor the Greeks that founded our civilization, as opposed to their less-cultured conquerors from Sparta. Also, while they aren’t on this list, any school that decides to be the Trojans is taking the name of the most famous losers in the history of the West.

Georgia Tech Hornets

Meh. The school’s in Atlanta, so…

Should be: Phoenix

Could be: Traffic, Devils, Fiddlers


University of Hawaii, Hilo Vulcans

I like this, but shouldn’t they use a Hawaiian term, not a Roman one?

Should be: Lua Pele, as long as that this doesn’t stoke any sort of cultural problem. The Magma, otherwise.

University of Hawaii, Manoa Rainbow Warriors

This comes from a nifty probably-true story that a rainbow appeared as Hawaii beat Oregon State. So, sure.

Should be: Rainbow Warriors.

Could be: Waves, Breaks, Sharks


Idaho Vandals

This is my favorite nickname on this list. I cannot believe that a school went with Vandals. I assume they meant the Germanic tribe? I don’t even want to know how it happened. Do the students tear down the goalposts after every game? We’ll move on.

Should be: Vandals

Boise State University Broncos

Again, why go with a tame animal when you could be…

Should be: Elk. Wapiti works too.

Could be: Militia



University of Illinois, Champaign Fighting Illini

Again with the Native names. What still remains of the Illinois Confederation calls itself the Peoria Tribe and lives in Oklahoma. Time to change.

Should be: Reapers

University of Illinois, Chicago Flames

I like the history. A little skeptical, considering it was a disaster for the city, but most nicknames center around destruction, so…

Should be: Flames


University of Indiana Hoosiers

Apparently this is an old word for redneck. And even if you note that most people don’t think of it that way anymore, it more or less means The Indiana Indianans.

Should be: I don’t know what Indiana has going for it. Deer? Corn? There’s the Indiana Bat. Let’s go with the Bats. But I’m open to suggestions.

Purdue Boilermakers

Back in the old days it took considerable skill and strength to make a functioning industrial boiler. And Purdue is an engineering school. I like this.

Should be: Boilermakers


University of Iowa Hawkeyes

The logo is a bird, and yet the name comes from newspapers that were themselves named after the Sauk leader Black Hawk. All pretty convoluted. And if you think that Black Hawk won his war, you don’t know much American history.

Should be: Hail

Iowa State University Cyclones


Should be: Cyclones

Could be: Caucuses, Pesticide, Monoculture


University of Kansas Jayhawks

I was going to make fun of this for not being a real bird, but then I found that it comes from insurgents in the messy pre-Civil War struggle against slavery. Also the whole Rock Chalk Jayhawk thing is fantastic. And the Jayhawks were a great, great band. So we’ll go with it.

Should be: Jayhawks.

Kansas State University Wildcats

No wildcats for anyone.

Should be: Meadowlarks. A beautiful, musical bird with a fine sporting heritage.

Could be: Horizon. I’ve driven Kansas.


A Jayhawk.


University of Kentucky Wildcats

Good God.

Should be: Miners

University of Louisville Cardinals

As noted in the Birdist link (above), this is the state bird of way too many states. Works okay here though.

Should be: Cardinals, I suppose.


Louisiana State University Tigers

So many Tigers and Wildcats, but hardly any Lions.

Should be: Hurricanes

University of Louisiana, Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns


Should be: Herons

Could be: Gators, Flood, Pelicans


University of Maine, Orono Black Bears

A great American animal that should get more attention. They’re all over the country, but we’ll let this stick as Ursus americanus goes strangely unused elsewhere.

Should be: Black Bears

University of Southern Maine Huskies


Should be: Puffins

Could be: Lobsters, Loggers, Loons


University of Maryland Terrapins

Not only original and place-appropriate, the Terrapins have given us one of the great slogans in college sports. Fear the Turtle.

Should be: Terrapins.

Towson University Tigers

Again, Tigers are right out.

Should be: Crabs


University of Massachusetts Minutemen

A nice choice.

Should be: Minutemen

UMass Lowell River Hawks

Presumably these are ospreys, which live just about everywhere. But, like black bears, they don’t get much play, so this is fine.

Should be: Ospreys. Why not use the real name?

Could be: Athenians, Whalers, Blight


University of Michigan Wolverines

All but extinct in Michigan. But they can keep Wolverines – it’s an awesome creature – on the condition that Michigan fosters its wolverine population.

Should be: Wolverines


Yes indeed.

Michigan State University Spartans

Again, why go with the anti-intellectual side of the Peloponnesian War?

Should be: Drive


University of Minnesota Golden Gophers

This is the silliest nickname in Division One. I love it almost as much as the Vandals. I’m not looking up the story behind Golden Gophers, just the fact that it is exists is wonderful enough.

Should be: Golden Gophers, by Dr. Seuss

St Cloud State University Huskies

Huskies are adorable dogs and pull sleds fast, but why them and not the Wolves? Minnesota is the only state in the Lower 48 where wolves were never extirpated.

Should be: Wolves

Could be: Blizzard, Hot Dish, Nice


“Ol’ Miss” Rebels

“Rebels” is a pretty horrifying pick for a school best known, nationwide, for its fight to deny admission to black students. Until just recently, the Colonel Reb mascot was an extremely antebellum-looking man who, if he was a real person, would have probably owned slaves.

To those who imagine that the war was about states’ rights…the right those states rebelled to protect was the right to enslave other people.

Ol’ Miss has halfheartedly tried to change it, and Colonel Reb is now a bear…and yet they’re not calling the teams the Bears. What could the bear be rebelling against? Tupelo honey prices?

All this aside, Ole Miss used to be called the Flood, which would be perfect.

Should be: Flood

Mississippi State University Bulldogs

So boring.

Should be: Kites


University of Missouri Tigers


Should be: Explorers. Lewis and Clark, and many others, started their expedition in Missouri.

Missouri State University Bears and Lady Bears

Let me take a moment to say that “Lady Bears,” just like Lady Vols, is pretty sexist.

Should be: Ozark Hellbenders. Check them out.


I yearn to see one.


Montana Grizzlies/Lady Grizz

Aside from the Lady thing this is perfect.

Should be: Grizzlies. Just the Grizzlies.

Montana State University Wildcats

Not again.

Should be: Trout

Could be: Glaciers, Antelope, Trumpeter Swans


University of Nebraska, Lincoln Cornhuskers

I’ve husked some corn myself. It’s not that hard.

Should be: Blizzard

University of Nebraska, Omaha Mavericks

This is a calf, and also what politicians like to call themselves to defend their rudeness after they say inappropriate things.

Should be: Prairie Falcons


University of Nevada, Las Vegas Running Rebels

There’s a long story here, but suffice it to say that the Running Rebel shares the same racist roots as Ol’ Miss’s Ol’ Bigot. Also it has almost nothing to do with Nevada.

Should be: Gamblers

University of Nevada, Reno Wolfpack

There are no wolves in Nevada.

Should be:Antelope


The fastest animal in North America.


Could be: Heat, Gangsters, Loan Sharks, Desperation, $3.99 Steaks, Drought, Miners

New Hampshire

University of New Hampshire Wildcats

My home state. Sigh.

Should be: Granite

Plymouth State University Panthers

There are no panthers of any kind anywhere near New Hampshire.

Should be: Porcupines

Could be: Old Men, Libertarians, Curmudgeons, Primaries, Exposure

New Jersey

Rutgers University Scarlet Knights

What is this, even? Scarlet Knight sounds like a term for a weaponized virus.

Should be: Devils

Montclair State University Red Hawks

Red-tailed Hawks? Red-shouldered Hawks? Fine either way.

Should be: Red Hawks, I suppose.

Could be: Sewage, Warblers, Traffic, Toll Plazas

New Mexico

University of New Mexico Lobos

They reintroduced Mexican Wolves there! They’re not doing that well, but hey, neither are UNM’s teams. Let us honor the effort.

Should be: Lobos

New Mexico State University Aggies

Why not call them Farmers instead of Aggies?

Should be: Falcons. In the US, Aplomado Falcons are only found in New Mexico and West Texas

New York

University of Buffalo Bulls


Should be: Buffalos. I would root for the Buffalo Buffalos.

Stony Brook Seawolves

Those awesome Alaskan wolves don’t swim to Long Island.

Should be: Dogfish

I find it strange that New York doesn’t have any college sports to speak of other than Syracuse and its Orangemen.

North Carolina 

University of North Carolina Tarheels

This is from the days when North Carolinians first set about turning their forests into naval products like tar, and the workers would get their heels dirty. While I’m an environmentalist, this seems fine. On a related note, you should read Serena.

Should be: Tarheels

North Carolina State University Wolfpack

They’ve reintroduced red wolves in North Carolina. Until the program folds (soon, I expect) I support this name.

Should be: Wolfpack

North Dakota

University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks

They used to be the Fighting Sioux, but that prompted a lot of Fighting People, as you can guess, and now they’re the Fighting Hawks. Dull. Especially when you consider how before that, they were the Flickertails, a ground squirrel that lives in North Dakota. Why not return to their roots?

Should be: Flickertails 

North Dakota State University Bison

Great choice.

Should be: Bison


The Ohio State University Buckeyes

There are indeed lots of buckeye trees in Ohio. And the desserts are delicious.

Should be: Buckeyes

University of Cincinnati Bearcats

Not a real animal. Not even a mythical animal. It comes from when they were playing Kentucky and had a good player named Baehr.

Should be: Legion. Cincinnatus was the Roman general who won his war and then returned to his farm instead of making himself a dictator. And if you wanted to have a mascot that symbolized winning, the Romans are the best classical choice you could make.


University of Oklahoma Sooners

So, Oklahoma was the last remnant of Indian Country, but of course that didn’t last too long, and the “Sooners” were the people who swarmed into the Unassigned Lands (as they were called) before they were legally allowed to be there. So really, the name memorializes some of the worst themes in American history.

Should be: Swallowtail Flycatchers

Oklahoma State University Cowboys

Ideal. A model for other states.

Should be: Cowboys

Could be: Dust.


University of Oregon Ducks

There’s a convoluted story behind this, one that starts with some revolutionary war heroes and ends with feathers on shoulder pads. Regardless, I like the distinctiveness of the Ducks.

Should be: Ducks

Oregon State University Beavers

Again, it’s nice to see something different.

Should be: Beavers

Could be: Rain, Volcanoes, Rogues, Steelhead, Artisans


Pennsylvania State University Nittany Lions

This is what the local mountain lions were called, back when there were mountain lions in Pennsylvania. That time is not now.

Should be: Rebels, actually. In this case honoring Pennsylvania’s proud contribution to our nation’s independence.

Temple University Owls

Yes indeed.

Should be: Owls

Rhode Island

University of Rhode Island Rams

Sheep, huh?

Should be: Weasels. Small but ferocious.

Rhode Island College Anchormen

Understandable, with Rhode Island’s maritime tradition, but I can only imagine how the college president felt when the Will Ferrell movie came out.

Should be: Anchormen. Just ride it out.

South Carolina

University of South Carolina Gamecocks

My taxes go to support this mascot, which honors an illegal form of animal abuse.

Should be: Wood Ducks

Clemson Tigers

Again, I’ve never seen a tiger here.

Should be: Copperheads


South Dakota 

University of South Dakota Coyotes

Pretty good. They’re nationwide (now), but some school should have them, and who better than South Dakota?

Should be: Coyotes

South Dakota State University Jackrabbits

I love this. Makes for a natural rivalry with USD.

Should be: Jackrabbits

Could be: Black-Footed Ferrets


University of Tennessee Volunteers

Lots of Tennesseans were so eager to get out of Tennessee that they volunteered to fight in the War of 1812 and the Mexican War. Respect for their courage. Disrespect for the nakedly imperialistic Mexican War.

Should be: Volunteers

Middle Tennessee State University Blue Raiders

The mascot is a horse, supposedly the one ridden by Nathan Bedford Forrest. He’s best known as the founder of the Ku Klux Klan. Sounds like a change is in order!

Should be: Twang. I love country music.


University of Texas Longhorns

An animal intended to be castrated, slaughtered, and eaten.

Should be: Armadillos

Texas Agricultural and Mechanical University Aggies

Full disclosure: this is the team I want to win the National Championship in football. But I do not quite understand what an Aggie actually is, as noted above. A farmer? A student at an Ag school? A paramilitary officer?

Should be: Whooping Cranes. TAMU does great wildlife work, and Texas’ avifauna is the richest in the country.


University of Utah Utes

Utah’s striven to do things right with regard to their nickname. They’ve partnered with the Ute tribe. They got rid of the supplementary Redskin nickname. The women’s teams are no longer the Lady Utes. And yet, as with FSU, I doubt that all 31,515 students live up to these noble institutional gestures. Best to keep the strong relationship with the Ute Tribe and call the teams something else.

Should be: Gulls. A flock of gulls arose and ate the grasshoppers that were eating Mormon settlers’ crops, saving them from ruin and altering the history of the American West. True story.

Utah State University Aggies


Should be: Hoodoos.


Hoo could doo better?

Could be: Drought, Canyons, Archers


University of Vermont Catamounts

Another word for mountain lion, another state that doesn’t have any.

Could be: Champs. This is the name of the Loch Ness-style creature in Lake Champlain. The aptness of this name for sporting teams overrules its not being a real animal.

Castelton University Spartans

Vermont is admittedly a Spartan sort of place. Also, I hadn’t ever heard of this place despite living in Vermont part of the year.

Should be: Frost


University of Virginia Cavaliers

Historic, relevant, unique. The Cavaliers weren’t nice people, but they made Virginia.

Should be: Cavaliers

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Hokies

This is a made-up word from a cheer. Then they called their teams gobblers, because athletes gobbled up their food, and then someone found a turkey that would gobble on command, and now here we are.

Should be: Hokies. It’s come together enjoyably, and turkeys are a great American bird that some school should use.


University of Washington Huskies

Only one school gets “Huskies,” which is a poor name to begin with.

Should be: Chinook. Salmon that can weigh a hundred pounds! Come on.

Washington State University Cougars

Full disclosure: my dad went there and so I root for them. And no-one else is the cougars except UVM and Penn State, kind of, and neither of those have living cougars around.

Should be: Cougars. Fair enough.

Could be: Orcas, Rain, Olympians

West Virginia

West Virginia University Mountaineers

These isn’t a Mount Everest type of mountaineer. These mountaineers are the rugged people who lived in West Virginia’s mountains. The mascot looks like Daniel Boone and Hugh Glass had a baby. I like it.

Should be: Mountainers

Marshall University Thundering Herd

The herd is of bison, and comes from a Western movie that some people liked. Really. Before that it was the Indians, and for a while there was the idea of Booger Cats, and Big Green, and yikes, Marshall’s nickname history is just horrid.

Should be: Rapids. There’s a lot of whitewater in West Virginia.


University of Wisconsin Badgers

Tremendous. I’m impressed by the way that Upper Midwest schools picked original mascots.

Should be: Badgers.

University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee Panthers

There are no panthers in Wisconsin or anywhere else in America.

Should be: Muskies. Muskellunge are an awesome Great Lakes fish.


Could be: Budget Slashers, Cheeseheads, Yellow Beer.


University of Wyoming Cowboys

A good choice, but it’s already taken by Oklahoma State. And Wyoming has LOTS of other options.

Should be: Geysers

Could be: Bears, Wolves, Elk, Wolverines

And that’s it. There’s only one four-year public school in Wyoming.

I hope that our nation’s university presidents pay attention to this advice.



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Ghost cities!

I emerge from a blogging hiatus (for anyone who looks, my blogging time goes to Orion’s Reimagining Infrastructure project at But I couldn’t let this article go by. As a reservoir dries up, a Russian city is emerging from the waters! So crazy. We don’t think about it all that much in this country, since it would be politically untenable now, but many big dams drowned cities and towns – the Three Gorges Dam forced more than a million people to move. Check out Ivan Doig’s Bucking the Sun if you want a good novel about how this happened in Montana during the New Deal. One wonders, as dams get removed, are people going to move back to old town sites?

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