Spotlight On: New Book on Wilderness Movement History

Your Wilderness - September 2012

Since passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964, Congress has extended its strong protection to an additional 100 million acres. Each success story reveals the vital importance of broad grassroots support from local citizen organizations  as well as bipartisan congressional backing for wilderness preservation, which continues to this day.

This history is traced in a compelling new book by Wellesley College history professor James Morton Turner, “The Promise of Wilderness: American Environmental Politics Since 1964” (University of Washington Press, 2012, 520 pages).  Based on extensive interviews and archival research for his Ph.D. dissertation at Princeton, Turner's book shows how the work for wilderness protection fits within the context of the larger environmental awakening of the 1970s and prospered under administrations of presidents from both political parties. The Promise of WildernessPresident Jimmy Carter signed laws protecting the most acreage of any president (notably the huge Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980), and President Ronald Reagan signed the largest number of wilderness designation laws: 43. 

This rich history has many important lessons for those who work for wilderness protection today. Paul Sutter, author of “Driven Wild:  How the Fight Against Automobiles Launched the Modern Wilderness Movement,” calls the book “a superb study of the implementation of the Wilderness Act, and a springboard for a new period in wilderness thought and advocacy.” 

Several members of Pew's Campaign for America's Wilderness team  are included in the book, including Doug Scott, Ken Rait, Mike Matz, and Tim Mahoney.  It is available from the following sources: University of Washington Press |  AmazonBarnes & Noble