A nature writer and hunting and fishing podcaster offers an account of his travels in and the history of American public lands.
American citizens, writes Kenyon, “are collective co-owners of…approximately 640 million acres” of land designated for outdoor recreational activities like camping, hiking, hunting, and fishing. In his first book, the author explores a variety of federally protected natural areas, including Yellowstone National Park, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, and Arches National Park, while delving into the embattled history of America’s wild places. Born into a family of Michigan hunters and anglers, Kenyon’s passion for the outdoors developed after college. His research into American public lands transformed him into a political advocate who, over the course of 18 months, traveled across the United States to ground himself in the “national forests, monuments, wildlife refuges and wilderness…that hung in the balance.” Camping trips, like one he took through the “shimmering plains and badland buttes” of North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park, made the author aware that such areas received federal protection only because champions like Roosevelt stood up to industrialists and developers who sought to use the land for profit. Laws, such as Roosevelt’s Antiquities Act of 1906, granted presidents sole executive power to “designate lands as having ‘historical landmarks, historic preservation structures and other objects of scientific interest.’ ” However, legislation has never guaranteed that natural areas would receive protected status or that lands with that status would remain safe from predation. Kenyon cites the case of the 1980s Sagebrush Rebellion, which sought to place control of federally protected Western lands into the hands of privatization-friendly state governments. The author also references Donald Trump’s legal encroachments on the Antiquities Act and reductions of such wilderness areas as the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. Thoughtfully observed throughout, Kenyon’s book offers fond recollections of his experiences in the American outdoors while reminding readers of their obligation to protect their right to lands too often taken for granted.
An intimate and informative journey.