ISU Headlines

ISU professor Marsh releases book about NW wilderness areas

Posted March 26, 2007

Idaho State University history assistant professor Kevin Marsh, PhD, has authored a new book “Drawing Lines in the Forest: Creating Wilderness Areas in the Pacific Northwes,” which was released this month by the University of Washington Press.

MarshIt appears in the series Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books, edited by William Cronon. Through a series of case studies it documents the changing patterns of participation in the process of where to designate federal wilderness areas on public forest lands in Oregon and Washington from the 1950s through the 1980s.

“Drawing Lines in the Forest offers insights that are relevant to all regions of the United States, and that arguably changes the way we should think not just about wilderness, but about the much larger project of American land conservation in general,” says Cronon in the book’s Forward.

Drawing boundaries around wilderness areas often serves a double purpose: protection of the land within the boundary and release of the land outside the boundary to resource extraction and other development. In his book, Marsh discusses the roles played by various groups—the Forest Service, the timber industry, recreationists, and environmentalists—in arriving at these boundaries. He shows that pragmatic, rather than ideological goals, were often paramount with all sides benefiting.

After World War II, representatives of both logging and recreation use sought to draw boundaries that would serve to guarantee access to specific areas of public lands. The logging industry wanted to secure a guaranteed supply of timber, as an era of stewardship of the nation's public forests gave way to an emphasis on rapid extraction of timber resources. This spawned a grassroots preservationist movement that ultimately challenged the managerial power of the Forest Service. The Wilderness Act of 1964 provided an opportunity for groups on all sides to participate openly and effectively in the political process of defining wilderness boundaries. 

The often contentious debates over the creation of wilderness areas in the Cascade Mountains in Oregon and Washington represent the most significant stages in the national history of wilderness conservation since World War II: Three Sisters, North Cascades and Glacier Peak, Mount Jefferson, Alpine Lakes, French Pete, and the state-wide wilderness acts of 1984.

The book is available at the ISU Bookstore as well as online at outlets such as Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.