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The Promise of Wilderness: American Environmental Politics Since 1964

The Promise of Wilderness: American Environmental Politics Since 1964
James Morton Turner
University of Washington Press
Publication Date: 

cloth, 524 pp., $39.95

Recognized as an authority in environmental studies, James Morton Turner reminds readers that “it was America’s wild lands, tall forests, and spectacular mountains that distinguished the nation from Europe in the nineteenth century.” In his analysis he further states: “Protected wilderness areas make up nearly twenty percent of the parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and other public lands that cover a full fourth of the nation’s territory.” The author reviews American environmental history, including the territorial claims that made the lands public, which was a legacy of the conquest of the American West. In 1964, when the Wilderness Act was passed, diverse groups were formed in order to influence the management of the national wilderness lands across the nation. The goal of some advocates has been to develop the land for recreational purposes, for grazing, and as a resource for timber, while others have sought complete protection of the territories so there is an enduring resource for the American public. Turner concludes his study with the comment that the Wilderness Act established a political process that engages citizens “in a sustained discussion toward the common interest.”

— Marilyn K. Alaimo, garden writer and volunteer, Chicago Botanic Garden