The Politics of Wilderness Preservation

The Politics of Wilderness Preservation

The Politics of Wilderness Preservation

The Politics of Wilderness Preservation


"An excellent text that presents a detailed and well-documented account of the political struggles to preserve American wilderness areas.... This book should appeal to a wide audience, including political and natural scientists, environmentalists, historians, and resource managers. Strongly recommended for the graduate, undergraduate, and general libraries." - Choice


Like winds and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them. Now we face the question whether a still higher "standard of living" is worth its cost in things natural, wild, and free. --Aldo Leopold A Sand County Almanac

I discovered the Boundary Waters wilderness of Minnesota at age 13. That visit whetted an appetite for wild country that persistently beckons me to experience the American wilderness. That desire bore no relationship to my professional training in political science and public policy until my discovery, in 1970, that the world lacked any scholarly survey of American wilderness policy. That discovery set in motion a chain of events that eventually produced this volume.

Preservation politics has run nearly full circle in the United States. Early Americans confronted a continental wilderness and set about taming it. With the birth of the nation, the federal government became a partner in the conquest, squandering its birthright to further industrial development and economic expansion. Today wilderness has become a scarce commodity outside of Alaska, and policymakers have responded with legislation to preserve portions of what little remains.

This volume traces the genesis and development of the wilderness issue in American politics from a period of resource abundance to the present age of scarcity. Wilderness is a natural resource like coal, oil, fertile soil, pure water, and clean air. Economic growth depletes all these resources, but wilderness is the first to go. the growing appreciation of wilderness scarcity, among policymakers and the public, has forced the nation to come to grips with Aldo Leopold's question, "whether a still higher 'standard of living' is worth its cost in things natural, wild, and free." This is the story of how our policymakers have answered that question so far.

Craig W. Allin . . .

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