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Uploaded on Nov 8, 2011

From Denali's majestic slopes to the Great Swamp of central New Jersey, protected wilderness areas make up nearly twenty percent of the national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and other public lands that cover a full fourth of the nation's territory. Wilderness is not only a place, however, but also one of the most powerful and troublesome ideas in American environmental thought, representing everything from sublime beauty to patriotic inspiration to a countercultural ideal to an overextension of government authority.

The Promise of Wilderness examines how the idea of wilderness has shaped the management of public lands in the decades since the passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964. Wilderness preservation has engaged diverse groups of citizens, from loggers and hunters to wildlife enthusiasts and hikers, as political advocates who have leveraged the resources of local and national groups towards a common goal. Turner demonstrates how these efforts have influenced major shifts in modern American environmental politics, which have emerged not just in reaction to a new generation of environmental concerns such as environmental justice and climate change, but also in response to changed debates over old conservation issues such as public lands management. He also shows how battles over wilderness protection have influenced American politics more broadly, fueling disputes over the proper role of government, individual rights, and the interests of rural communities, giving rise to radical environmentalism, and playing an important role in the resurgence of the conservative movement, especially in the American West.

James Morton Turner is an assistant professor of environmental studies at Wellesley College.

"James Turner's insightful book demonstrates the continued vitality and centrality of wilderness within American environmentalism." - Mark Harvey, author of Wilderness Forever: Howard Zahniser and the Path to the Wilderness Act

"A superb study of the implementation of the Wilderness Act, and a springboard for a new period in wilderness thought and advocacy." - Paul Sutter, author of Driven Wild: How the Fight Against Automobiles Launched the Modern Wilderness Movement

"The most deeply researched, analytically rigorous, and elegantly written study of American wilderness politics since the 1960s yet produced." - William Cronon

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