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A Brief History of People and Policy in the West

A Brief History of People and Policy in the West

(p.3) 1 A Brief History of People and Policy in the West
Stitching the West Back Together
Thomas E. SheridanNathan F. Sayre
University of Chicago Press

Today’s checkerboard of public, tribal, and private land in the American West arose from contradictory land policies in the 19th and early 20th centuries and now is at the heart of conflict among competing interests. Mid-19th-century migration to the West brought clear-cut forests and overstocked ranges, and pushed Native Americans into ever-shrinking reservations. In the 1890s the federal government established national forest preserves that regulated ranching and logging; the 1934 Taylor Grazing Act extended such regulation to the public domain. The early 20th century was characterized by government as both the source of conservation knowledge and the enforcer of management prescriptions. Tensions arose over managing for the “public” interest versus the interests of local residents dependent on public lands for livelihoods. Today we have ranchers and loggers pitted against environmentalists and urban recreationalists, while federal agencies attempt to manage their lands for multiple uses. But collaborative conservation has begun, attempting to represent all interests in management decisions.

Keywords:   American West, conservation, land policy, Taylor Grazing Act, collaborative conservation

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