Natural Rivals: John Muir, Gifford Pinchot, and the Creation of America's Public Lands

Natural Rivals: John Muir, Gifford Pinchot, and the Creation of America's Public Lands

by John Clayton


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A dynamic examination that traces the lives of two of the most influential figures—and their dueling approaches—on America's natural landscape.

John Muir, the most famous naturalist in American history, protected Yosemite, co-founded the Sierra Club, and is sometimes called the Father of the National Parks. A poor immigrant, self-taught, individualistic, and skeptical of institutions, his idealistic belief in the spiritual benefits of holistic natural systems led him to a philosophy of preserving wilderness unimpaired.

Gifford Pinchot founded the U.S. Forest Service and advised his friend Theodore Roosevelt on environmental policy. Raised in wealth, educated in privilege, and interested in how institutions and community can overcome failures in individual virtue, Pinchot’s pragmatic belief in professional management led him to a philosophy of sustainably conserving natural resources.

When these rivaling perspectives meet, what happens? For decades, the story of their relationship has been told as a split between the conservation and preservation philosophies, sparked by a proposal to dam a remote Yosemite valley called Hetch Hetchy. But a decade before that argument, Muir and Pinchot camped together alongside Montana’s jewel-like Lake McDonald in, which was at the heart of a region not yet consecrated as Glacier National Park.

At stake in 1896 was the new idea that some landscapes should be collectively, permanently owned by a democratic government. Although many people today think of public lands as an American birthright, their very existence was then in doubt, and dependent on a merger of the talents of these two men. Natural Rivals examines a time of environmental threat and political dysfunction not unlike our own, and reveals the complex dynamic that gave birth to America's rich public lands legacy.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781643130804
Publisher: Pegasus Books
Publication date: 08/06/2019
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 237,908
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

John Clayton is the author of The Cowboy Girl which was a finalist for a High Plains Book Award, as well as Small Town Bound, Stories from Montana’s Enduring Frontier, and Images of America: Red Lodge. Clayton writes for The Montana Quarterly and his book Wonderlandscape: Yellowstone National Park and the Evolution of an American Cultural Icon, also published by Pegasus Books, was an Honored Book at the Montana Book Award. He lives in Bozeman, Montana.

Table of Contents

Cast of Characters ix

Timeline of Key Events xi

Prologue xiii

Part I Natural Prophet, Natural Statesman 1

1 Gramercy Park 3

2 "Radiate Radiate Radiate" 15

3 The Tragedy of John Muir 34

4 "Sufficient Confidence in His Own Wisdom" 59

5 The Tragedy of Gifford Pinchot 83

Part II The Birth of Public Lands 101

6 Bigger Stakes at Play 103

7 Free Land for Many Uses 125

8 No Trespassing 140

9 Lake McDonald's Delight 159

10 The Public Good Forever 180

Epilogue 207

Acknowledgments 217

Notes 221

Bibliography 259

Index 267

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