Charles F. Wilkinson III ’63
B.A., Denison University
LL.B., Stanford University
Citation awarded June, 2003
Charles F. Wilkinson III has written broadly on law, history, and society in the American West, including the standard law texts on federal public-land law and Indian law. Over the past decade, he moved beyond legal scholarship to attract a more general audience with non-fiction books such as The Eagle Bird (1992), Crossing the Next Meridian (1992), and 2nd Fire on the Plateau (1999). The New York Times praised The Eagle Bird as a book of “elegant essays. A vigorous study of [how] the development of the West has both disrupted many delicate environments and profoundly reshaped the societies that emerged on the frontier.” Of Crossing the Next Meridian, the Christian Science Monitor wrote, “He is an extraordinary writer, able to tell the human stories that make up both history and law.” His most recent book, Messages from Frank’s Landing: A Story of Salmon, Treaties, and the Indian Way, A Story of Billy Frank, Jr. of the Nisqually Tribe of Washington, received the 2000 Colorado Book Award.
The Universities of Colorado and Oregon have given Charles their highest awards for leadership, scholarship, and teaching. The National Wildlife Federation presented him with its National Conservation Award. In its 10th-year anniversary issue, Outside Magazine named him one of “15 People to Watch,” calling him “the West’s leading authority on natural-resources law.” He has served on the boards of the Wilderness Society, the Northern Lights Institute, and the Western Environmental Law Center, and is currently Board Chair of the Grand Canyon Trust.
Over the years, Charles has taken on many special assignments for the Departments of Interior, Agriculture, and Justice. He served as special counsel to the Interior Department for the drafting of the Presidential Proclamation, signed in 1996, establishing the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah. In December 1997, Agriculture Secretary Glickman appointed him a member of the Committee of Scientists, which resulted in the 2000 Forest Service planning regulations. Wilkinson acted as facilitator in negotiations between the National Park Service and the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe concerning a tribal land base in Death Valley National Park; Congress enacted legislation ratifying the resulting agreement in 2000. He has also served as mediator in negotiations between the City of Seattle and the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe.