Planting seeds for preservation

  • Cities in the Wilderness

  In Cities in the Wilderness, former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt asks: "Is it realistic to suggest expanding land protection programs in a season when the Bush administration and Congress are intent not upon expanding, but upon shrinking the reach of our environmental laws?"

Babbitt’s answer is a resounding "Yes." He continues, "History instructs us that the trajectory of environmental protection is moving ever upward over time, even as the trend line occasionally breaks downward. And that suggests to me that the seeds of change must be planted now, even if they do not germinate immediately."

And plant seeds Babbitt does, in a book that is part call-to-arms, part memoir, and part land-use policy analysis. Cities in the Wilderness examines Babbitt’s accomplishments as President Clinton’s Interior Secretary from 1992 to 2000, and offers advice on laying the groundwork for the next phase.

People who love Babbitt and his legacy of environmental preservation and restoration will love Cities in the Wilderness; people who hated him will likewise hate this book. He pulls no punches when he writes that the "grazing of livestock is the most damaging use of public land," or calls public-lands predator control a "rangeland massacre."

Babbitt also provides plenty of juicy insider’s tidbits: He discusses how he "helped" Clinton secure a conservation legacy by gently comparing the number of acres Clinton had preserved with the number preserved by Teddy Roosevelt. A few months later, Clinton designated several more monuments, pushing his acreage tally above Roosevelt’s. Babbitt makes an eloquent argument for more enlightened federal land-use planning. This is a bold and visionary book by one of America’s most bold and visionary conservation leaders.

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