photo of Neil Hamilton
Neil Hamilton

Law professor quoted in NPR
story on urban sprawl

Agricultural law expert and
professor Neil Hamilton shared his expertise in a recent story about
urban sprawl on NPR’s “All Things Considered.”

The story, headlined “A
Donkey’s Tale: When Urban Sprawl Encroaches,” tells of clashes that
develop over animals wherever city meets country. It focuses on Sweet Water Red
Gambler, a donkey living in Golden Valley, a residential area zoned for
agricultural use near Reno, Nev. Read the full story online.

 The donkey’s loud and frequent braying disturbed the neighbors and their complaints landed his owners — Nancy and Lee Bonham — in court for violating a noise ordinance. They were found guilty and ended up selling the donkey. Read the full story online and listen to the bray that ignited a community. 

Nearby livestock owners reacted by getting Washoe County to adopt a policy to preserve the rural character of the area in the face of development. This policy requires that anyone buying a new home in a new subdivision must be informed of the existence of noise and odor from livestock in the community.

Hamilton: New policy may not prevent nuisance suits

It’s not clear how effective the policy will be, but it bears watching, according to Hamilton, director of the Drake Agricultural Law Center. 

“It’s certainly interesting,” Hamilton told NPR. “It’s a good example of a homegrown democracy-type idea: ‘Well, we ought to protect ourselves.’ But this type of ordinance wouldn’t necessarily prevent a nuisance suit.”

He explained that the essence of nuisance law is “reasonableness,” and what’s reasonable can change as the land changes. In other words, even with the new policy in place, Golden Valley’s livestock owners may have a hard time convincing a judge that animal noises are reasonable as the community becomes more suburban.

More radio programs feature Hamilton

Hamilton was interviewed last week for a radio show on WOR 710 in New York City that was broadcast on Saturday, March 1. 

The interview concerned the new “Doomsday Seed Vault” in Svalbard, Norway, which has been making national news in the United States. The vault is designed to protect millions of food crops from climate change, wars and natural disasters.

Hamilton is vice chair of the Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa, which has contributed 500 packets of heirloom vegetable seeds in the first U.S. donation to the Svalbard collection.

He was also interviewed about the Seed Savers’ contribution by Jerry Perkins of the Des Moines Register for a story that was published Sunday, March 2. Read the full story online. 

In addition, Hamilton did an interview last week on WHO Radio’s “Big Show” with Ken Root in which he discussed:

  • Drake Law School’s involvement with the Buy Fresh Buy Local initiative
  • Matters related to the 2008 farm bill
  • The new seed storage vault in Norway