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Public Lands and Political Meaning: Ranchers, the Government, and the Property between Them Hardcover – July 15, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

"In recovering the process by which American ranchers achieved their political coming-of-age, Karen Merrill's Public Lands and Political Meaning breaks new ground. Here the history of ranchlands policy, long oversimplified and even truncated by western and public lands historians, is presented as a complex, nuanced, and interdisciplinary narrative. Merrill forces us to see how inescapable is the reach of the past, as the political choices ranchers and administrators fought over nearly a century ago set the stage for the policy battles that rage today over western grazing rights. Anyone who cares about the fate of our nation's beleaguered public lands should read this book."—Victoria Saker Woeste, author of The Farmer's Benevolent Trust: Law and Agricultural Cooperation in Industrial America, 1865-1945

"Karen Merrill's Public Lands and Political Meaning provides a new and refreshing perspective on the ongoing struggles for control over the public's vast acreage in the American West. Merrill's pathbreaking and lucid analysis reveals how the entangling of private property with public lands has given to ranchers, government agents, and now environmentalists a set of powerful but ultimately limited tools to reckon their relations to one another and to the land. With this book, the political history of the public domain moves back to the center of American history."—Louis S. Warren, author of The Hunter's Game: Poachers and Conservationists in Twentieth-Century America

"In Public Lands and Political Meaning, Karen R. Merrill offers a provocative and original analysis of the roots of recent controversies involving ranchers, environmentalists, and government officials in the West. She shows how a seemingly simple question—who owns "the public domain"?—has generated intense and far-reaching debate throughout the twentieth century. Her account of the contested meaning of the vast federal estate sheds new light on the history of the State. This is an important book."—Adam Rome, author of The Bulldozer in the Countryside and editor of Environmental History

About the Author

Karen R. Merrill is Assistant Professor of History at Williams College and editor of The Modern Worlds of Business and Industry: Cultures, Technology, Labor (1998).

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