Crimes against Nature: Squatters, Poachers, Thieves, and the Hidden History of American Conservation

By Karl Jacoby | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
Public Property
and Private Parks

“The people, as a rule, know nothing of the existence of a Forest Commission. ” So reported one of the commission's agents following a special investigative tour of the Adirondacks in the summer of 1885, in a comment that portended the enormous challenges facing the region's newly appointed managers. It had been a relatively easy matter for officials in Albany to draw a “blue line” around some three million acres of state and private land in northern New York and to proclaim this space a park and forest preserve governed by a new series of environmental regulations. But landscapes do not magically reshape themselves in accordance with the desires expressed in legislation. Establishing a functioning conservation program would require not just new laws but new mechanisms of enforcement as well, for, as New York officials soon discovered, managing the ecology of the Adirondacks was possible only if one monitored the daily interactions of local residents with the natural world. 1

To facilitate the expanded state supervision of the countryside that conservation required, the Forest Commission embarked upon a program of what the political scientist James Scott has termed “state simplification, ” in which officials standardized and rationalized local practices to make them more comprehensible—and ultimately more controllable—by government agencies. 2 Creating a simplified Adirondacks, however, was far from a simple process. The new agencies charged with overseeing the region's ecology often lacked basic knowledge about local conditions. Even data that one imagines to have been

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Crimes against Nature: Squatters, Poachers, Thieves, and the Hidden History of American Conservation
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Illustrations xi
  • Tables xiii
  • Preface xv
  • Introduction - The Hidden History of American Conservation 1
  • Part I - The Adirondacks 9
  • Chapter 1 - The Re-Creation of Nature 11
  • Chapter 2 - Public Property and Private Parks 29
  • Chapter 3 - Working-Class Wilderness 48
  • Part II - Yellowstone 79
  • Chapter 4 - Nature and Nation 81
  • Chapter 5 - Fort Yellowstone 99
  • Chapter 6 - Modes of Poaching and Production 121
  • Part III - The Grand Canyon 147
  • Chapter 7 - The Havasupai Problem 149
  • Chapter 8 - Farewell Song 171
  • Epilogue - Landscapes of Memory and Myth 193
  • Chronology of American Conservation 199
  • Notes 203
  • Bibliography 267
  • Index 293
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