“The point of all this is that in the West we are, far more than any other part of the country, in touch with the earth and subject to it…. Our awareness is very deep, and this awareness is a fundamental characteristic of us and our land.”
Bernard DeVoto, Footnote on the West
“Every dedicated environmentalist should read this book. It contains a crucial chapter of our history. At the end of World War II, the conservation movement championed by the two Roosevelt presidents was in disarray and had lost its voice. In the years after, Bernard DeVoto provided that voice, through the Easy Chair columns that are reproduced in DeVoto’s West.”
Stewart Udall, Secretary of the Interior in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations
“The publication of this collection…could not be more timely…. Reading these essays today is as necessary and vital to protecting our American West as it was when DeVoto wrote them half a century ago.”
Western American Literature
Social commentator and preeminent western historian Bernard DeVoto vigorously defended public lands in the West against commercial interests. By the time of his death in 1955, DeVoto had published criticism, history, and fiction. He had won both the Pulitzer and Bancroft prizes. But his most passionate writing—at once incisive and eloquent—advocated conservation of America’s prairies, rangeland, forests, mountains, canyons, and deserts.
DeVoto’s West: History, Conservation, and the Public Good showcases the complexity, depth, and breadth of DeVoto’s thinking. Edward K. Muller introduces these essays (many of which originally appeared in the renowned Harper’s column The Easy Chair) that persuasively advocate stewardship of public land. DeVoto addressed the plundering of resources by absentee eastern corporations, westerners’ conflicted relationship with the forces of exploitation, and the degradation of the national parks.
DeVoto’s West collects for the first time the best of DeVoto’s conservation pieces. It will introduce to a new generation prose that has retained its relevance and remains a remarkably current and timely argument for protecting public lands.
Edward K. Muller is a professor of history and director of the Urban Studies Program at the University of Pittsburgh. He has written widely on the historical geography of American cities and is coeditor of The Atlas of Pennsylvania and North America: The Historical Geography of a Changing Continent.
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