During the rising tide of environmentalism in the 1960s, one man earned the title of the movement’s "most durable foe." Historian Steven C. Schulte’s new book, Wayne Aspinall and the Shaping of the American West, profiles the congressman who unabashedly promoted the development of the West’s public lands and shaped American environmental policy.
For more than two decades,
Wayne Aspinall represented western Colorado in Congress. As the
chair of the House Interior Committee, he helped authorize $5
billion in Western water reclamation projects, created national
parks and helped pass the Wilderness Act. He was a conservative,
rural Democrat who "regarded himself as a mainstream
conservationist, espousing the wisest use of those resources" and
"saw himself as the voice of the increasingly beleaguered Western
resource user." But enemies viewed him as a tool of the mining,
logging and ranching industries, wielding enormous power to stifle
the growing environmental movement.
Aspinall as a fair but rigid representative who — even as his
mindset stood in stark contrast to that of the nation’s
environmentalists — jockeyed landmark environmental
legislation through Congress. After Aspinall was ousted from
Congress in the 1972 Democratic primary, he mentored Reagan
Interior Secretary James Watt, and served as "a major intellectual
influence on the Sagebrush Rebellion."
an organized and engaging review of Aspinall’s battles over
the Colorado River Storage Project and the Wilderness Act, as well
as his exchanges with Kennedy-era Interior Secretary Stewart Udall
and Sierra Club leader David Brower, who once said the
environmental movement had seen "dream after dream dashed on the
stony continents of Wayne Aspinall."
Wayne Aspinall and the Shaping of the American
West by Steven C. Schulte
hardcover $29.95. University of Colorado Press,
The environment's 'most durable foe'
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