A common, or commons, is land that belongs to an entire community. More specifically, it is open land held in common by the people of a town for shared pasturage or the gathering of firewood. As noted in A Gazetteer of Illinois in 1834 by J. M. Peck, “A common is a tract of land . . . in which each owner of a village lot has a common but not an individual right. In some cases this tract embraces several thousand acres—the common attached to Cahokia extends up the prairie opposite St. Louis.” In her book Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert, Terry Tempest Williams notes that “most lands in the American West are public lands, a commons if you will, held inside a national trust: national forests, Bureau of Land Management lands, national parks, monuments, and refuges.” These are the commons of a global village, preserved with common sense and commitment to the common good.

Donna Seaman