Wilderness Forever: Howard Zahniser and the Path to the Wilderness Act

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Winner of the Forest History Society's 2006 Charles A. Weyerhaeuser Book Award

As a central figure in the American wilderness preservation movement in the mid-twentieth century, Howard Zahniser (1906-1964) was the person most responsible for the landmark Wilderness Act of 1964. While the rugged outdoorsmen of the earlyenvironmental movement, such as John Muir and Bob Marshall, gave the cause a charismatic face, Zahniser strove to bring conservation's concerns into the public eye...

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Winner of the Forest History Society's 2006 Charles A. Weyerhaeuser Book Award

As a central figure in the American wilderness preservation movement in the mid-twentieth century, Howard Zahniser (1906-1964) was the person most responsible for the landmark Wilderness Act of 1964. While the rugged outdoorsmen of the earlyenvironmental movement, such as John Muir and Bob Marshall, gave the cause a charismatic face, Zahniser strove to bring conservation's concerns into the public eye and the preservationists' plans to fruition. In many fights to save besieged wild lands, he pulled together fractious coalitions, built grassroots support networks, wooed skittish and truculent politicians, and generated streams of eloquent prose celebrating wilderness.

Zahniser worked for the Bureau of Biological Survey (a precursor to the Fish and Wildlife Service) and the Department of the Interior, wrote for Nature magazine, and eventually managed the Wilderness Society and edited its magazine, Living Wilderness. The culmination of his wilderness writing and political lobbying was the Wilderness Act of 1964. All of its drafts included his eloquent definition of wilderness, which still serves as a central tenet for the Wilderness Society: "an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain." The bill was finally signed into law shortly after his death.

Pervading his tireless work was a deeply held belief in the healing powers of nature for a humanity ground down by the mechanized hustle-bustle of modern, urban life. Zahniser grew up in a family of Methodist ministers, and although he moved away from any specific denomination, a spiritual outlook informed his thinking about wilderness. His love of nature was not so much a result of scientific curiosity as a sense of wonder at its beauty and majesty, and a wish to exist in harmony with all other living things. In this deeply researched and affectionate portrait, Mark Harvey brings to life this great leader of environmental activism.

University of Washington Press

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Editorial Reviews

Agricultural History
Wilderness Forever leads environmental history out of Carson's long shadow. It directs our attention well back past Earth Day..This thorough, lucid book fully realizes biography's promise to illuminate the past by describing a single life.
New Mexico Historical Review
An exceptional biography of a remarkable subject.. Wilderness Forever deserves high praise..[and] will undoubtedly remain the definitive work on Zahniser. Harvey's meticulous research and engaging writing make this volume not only important, but a delight to read. With Wilderness Forever..Harvey firmly establishes himself as the leading historian of wilderness in the post-World War II era.
Western Historical Quarterly
We have Mark Harvey to thank for a meticulously researched biography, riveting in its detail of how political alliances dissolved or reformed, of how bills became laws, and of how early wilderness defenders sought to reconcile wilderness management and undisturbed conditions.
Electronic Green Journal
A solid addition to the body of literature on conservationists and the development of wilderness areas. Highly recommended for the lay reader as well as the scholar.
The Journal of American History
Do environmental historians really need yet another biography of a heroic environmentalist?... In the case of Mark Harvey's graceful study of Howard Zahniser, the answer to that question would seem to be, surprisingly, yes, the pantheon of environmental heroes needs to make room for one more addition. Those seeking to understand the tectonic shifts in environmental politics in the mid-twentieth century and the quiet man who played an unexpectedly large role in many of them will find Wilderness Forever to be a welcome— and long overdue— work of environmental biography.
Oregon Historical Quarterly
Mark Harvey's Wilderness Forever is a superb biography of the nation's preeminent postwar wilderness lobbyist. Harvey has given readers a detailed portrait of an activist who most environmental historians know was important but do not know well. Like the man it chronicles, Wilderness Forever is quiet and humble but also forceful and convincing.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780295987071
  • Publisher: University of Washington Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2007
  • Series: Weyerhaeuser Environmental Bks.
  • Pages: 348
  • Sales rank: 828,294
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.78 (d)

Meet the Author

Mark Harvey is professor of history at North Dakota State University in Fargo. He is the author of A Symbol of Wilderness: Echo Park and the American Conservation Movement.

University of Washington Press

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Table of Contents

Foreword by William CrononAcknowledgmentsIntroduction1. Boyhood in Pennsylvania2. A Career in Conservation3. Finding a New Path4. Taking the Reins5. Recreation and Wilderness6. A Summer in the West7. The Vulnerable Wilderness8. Keeping It Wild9. At Work in the Capital10. In Search of Community11. The Challenge of Reclassification12. Saving a Canal and a Monument13. Untrammeled by Man14. Wilderness in Perpetuity15. The Constant AdvocateEpilogueNotesSelected BibliographyIndex

University of Washington Press

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 4, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    A Man to Know

    I did not know who Howard Zahniser was until I interviewed for a faculty position at Greenville College in Illinois. Howard Zahniser graduated from Greenville College. He was the son of a Free Methodist Pastor and became one of the best advocates of wilderness -- preservation, conservation, and enjoyment. I would like to have known this man. This book is a biography of a man and of the 1964 Wilderness Act. The two are so intertwined they cannot be separated. Besides Zahniser, you are introduced to several other important figures, like Aldo Leopold and Olaus Murie. The book portrays well the development of conservation measures against the politics, state concerns, changes in nature philosophy, and the growth of organizations including the Wilderness Society and the Sierra Club. Mark Harvey, the author, does a nice job of bringing the book to a close with a reflection on Zahniser, his influence on conservation and with his children. Quite informative. Highly recommended.

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