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Keeping Faith with Nature

Keeping Faith with Nature: Ecosystems, Democracy, and America’s Public Lands

Robert B. Keiter
Copyright Date: 2003
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 448
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  • Book Info
    Keeping Faith with Nature
    Book Description:

    As the twenty-first century dawns, public land policy is entering a new era. This timely book examines the historical, scientific, political, legal, and institutional developments that are changing management priorities and policies-developments that compel us to view the public lands as an integrated ecological entity and a key biodiversity stronghold.Once the background is set, each chapter opens with a specific natural resource controversy, ranging from the Pacific Northwest's spotted owl imbroglio to the struggle over southern Utah's Colorado Plateau country. Robert Keiter uses these case histories to analyze the ideas, forces, and institutions that are both fomenting and retarding change.Although Congress has the final say in how the public domain is managed, the public land agencies, federal courts, and western communities are each playing important roles in the transformation to an ecological management regime. At the same time, a newly emergent and homegrown collaborative process movement has given the public land constituencies a greater role in administering these lands. Arguing that we must integrate the new imperatives of ecosystem science with our devolutionary political tendencies, Keiter outlines a coherent new approach to natural resources policy.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-12827-7
    Subjects: General Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    Is a new era dawning on the western public domain? With the twenty-first century upon us, the nation’s policy for public lands and natural resources appears to be in a state of flux. How else to explain the near-mythical status that the previously unknown northern spotted owl has attained, or the gray wolf’s transformation from the beast of destruction to a key missing ecological link? How else to explain the demise of the revered Smokey Bear image and the reintroduction of fire as an important component of the landscape? And how else to explain the heralded advent of ecological management...

  6. TWO Policy and Power on the Public Domain
    (pp. 15-46)

    Controversy and change are nothing new on the public lands. From the beginning, the public domain has been a contested landscape. Early controversies pitted settlers against the region’s native inhabitants and rival claimants against one another for nature’s bounty. More recent controversies have pitted local citizens against federal land managers, and entrenched economic interests against newly ascendant environmental advocates. The partisans in these conflicts are well aware that public land policy involves inherently political questions. They have all repeatedly enlisted our governmental institutions to advance their respective agendas, invoking a spectrum of ideas, laws, scientific studies, and policies to support...

  7. THREE Ecology and the Public Domain
    (pp. 47-78)

    Federal public land policy is undergoing profound changes. Whereas natural resources were historically viewed as plunder for the taking and only those things with obvious economic utility were valued, society is now attaching value to resources and species that previously were viewed as worthless. Whereas public lands have long been perceived as the nation’s development bank, these same lands are now being regarded as a critical biodiversity stronghold. Whereas land managers traditionally focused on single resources, they are now attempting to manage entire ecosystems in an integrated fashion. Whereas policy decisions ordinarily were based on existing political boundary lines, the...

  8. FOUR Ecology Triumphant? Spotted Owls and Ecosystem Management
    (pp. 79-126)

    After percolating for more than a decade in the academic journals, ecosystem management finally attained legitimacy in the rancorous spotted owl controversy. Few if any conflicts have tested our governmental institutions and environmental laws like the epic struggle over the Pacific Northwest’s ancient forests. Encompassing nearly a decade of contentious litigation, congressional recalcitrance, and administrative vacillation, the old growth imbroglio starkly demonstrates the important yet often painful adjustments that the age of ecology is bringing to the public domain. The controversy was originally cast as an “owls versus jobs” fight, but most observers soon acknowledged that the northern spotted owl...

  9. FIVE Making Amends with the Past Ecological Restoration and Public Lands
    (pp. 127-170)

    About 200 years ago, when the Lewis and Clark Expedition traversed the American West en route to the Pacific Ocean, it encountered a largely untouched and still primitive landscape. Millions of bison crisscrossed the Great Plains, grizzly bears roamed the region, salmon choked many of the rivers, and periodic fires burned the prairies and forests. Native ecosystems, having evolved over the millennia, were shaped primarily by natural disturbance regimes. To be sure, the region’s native inhabitants had a hand in the process, routinely setting fires and taking wildlife, but these impacts had not unraveled historic evolutionary patterns. Today that same...

  10. SIX Shaping a New Heritage Preservation in the Age of Ecology
    (pp. 171-218)

    Although preservation has deep roots in public land policy, the same cannot be said for the role of ecology in preservation policy. Aesthetics, scenic grandeur, and outdoor recreation—not ecosystems, biodiversity, or scientific inquiry—have been the primary forces behind our national parks, wilderness areas, and other protected land designations. To be sure, grizzly bears, bison, and other wild creatures have availed themselves of the millions of acres of public land placed off-limits to industrial development. Rarely was their welfare, however, the principal reason for preserving these wildlands. But we now understand that undeveloped wilderness serves as the last refuge...

  11. SEVEN Collaborative Conservation Building Sustainable Communities
    (pp. 219-272)

    Over the past several decades, the West has seemed at war with itself. Western communities, faced with jarring economic dislocations and rapid social changes, have struggled to reconcile the evolving imperatives of a “new West” with the time-honored traditions of the “old West.” Much local anger has been directed toward the region’s omnipresent federal landlord, reflecting a widely shared concern that people remain able to avail themselves of public lands for economic and other purposes. The Sagebrush Rebellion of the late 1970s was a prelude to the Wise Use movement of the 1990s, each venting frustration over tightening federal regulatory...

  12. EIGHT Toward a New Order Ecosystems and Democracy
    (pp. 273-310)

    The town of Quincy, California, is not the first place that comes to mind when the topic is public land policy. But in a few short years, Quincy came to represent all that is either right or else wrong with evolving new ecological management policies and related collaborative processes. Meeting together, a diverse array of local citizens and former antagonists—dubbed the Quincy Library Group—cobbled together a 2.5 million–acre experiment in national forest management predicated upon ambitious ecological restoration goals that were also designed to maintain the local timber industry and to minimize fire danger. When the Forest...

  13. NINE Keeping Faith with Nature
    (pp. 311-328)

    This account of contemporary public land policy has been about change, and the processes of change. Slowly but inexorably a new set of resource management priorities is surfacing on public lands, as well as a new way of doing business. The age of ecology is pulling public land policy toward a new era—one where we heed nature’s laws more carefully and begin to craft our own in this different image. Just as yesterday’s policies served us well in their time, the emerging ecological management regime portends a richer and more sustainable future. To be sure, the processes of change...

    (pp. 329-332)
  15. NOTES
    (pp. 333-420)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 421-434)