This Contested Land
The Storied Past and Uncertain Future of America’s National Monuments
by McKenzie Long
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Pub Date 16 Sep 2022 | Archive Date Not set
University of Minnesota Press, Univ Of Minnesota Press
This land is your land. When it comes to national monuments, the sentiment could hardly be more fraught. Gold Butte in Nevada, Organ Mountains–Desert Peaks in New Mexico, Katahdin Woods and Waters in Maine, Cascade–Siskiyou in Oregon and California: these are among the thirteen natural sites McKenzie Long visits in This Contested Land, an eye-opening exploration of the stories these national monuments tell, the passions they stir, and the controversies surrounding them today.
Starting amid the fragrant sagebrush and red dirt of Bears Ears National Monument on the eve of the Trump Administration’s decision to reduce the site by 85 percent, Long climbs sandstone cliffs, is awed by Ancestral Pueblo cliff dwellings and is intrigued by 4,000-year-old petroglyphs. She hikes through remote pink canyons recently removed from the boundary of Grand Staircase–Escalante, skis to a backcountry hut in Maine to view a truly dark night sky, snorkels in warm Hawaiian waters to plumb the meaning of marine preserves, volunteers near the most contaminated nuclear site in the United States, and witnesses firsthand the diverse forms of devotion evoked by the Rio Grande. In essays both contemplative and resonant, This Contested Land confronts an unjust past and imagines a collaborative future that bears witness to these regions’ enduring Indigenous connections.
From hazardous climate change realities to volatile tensions between economic development and environmental conservation, practical and philosophical issues arise as Long seeks the complicated and often overlooked—or suppressed—stories of these incomparable places. Her journey, mindfully undertaken and movingly described, emphasizes in clear and urgent terms the unique significance of, and grave threats to, these contested lands.
"In This Contested Land, McKenzie Long reframes national monuments in the American consciousness. With painterly language, superb historical research, and engaging boots-on-the-ground storytelling, this book explores crevices for meaning and truth in what for many is a gray area between politics and place. This is a vivid, smart, and overdue book." —Kathryn Aalto, author of Writing Wild: Women Poets, Ramblers, and Mavericks Who Shape How We See the Natural World
"This Contested Land takes readers deep into debates over national monuments. Through interviews, exploration, and vivid history, McKenzie Long unearths conflicting attitudes about human relationships to land and wildlife, tensions that go to the heart of our relationship with our country. This insightful book is essential reading for anyone who wants a better understanding of these fraught areas’ past and future." —Kim Todd, author of Sensational: The Hidden History of America’s “Girl Stunt Reporters"
"With intricately woven stories and stunningly artistic prose, This Contested Land invokes the intense power of relationships between humans and landscapes—a force that not only influences what people think should happen to a specific place but what the future of our Earth itself might become." —Katie Ives, editor-in-chief of Alpinist and author of Imaginary Peaks: The Riesenstein Hoax and Other Mountain Dreams
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