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Land in the American West

Private Claims and the Common Good

edited by William G. Robbins and James C. Foster

Publication Year: 2000

Published by: University of Washington Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-ix

“Land” and “the West” figure prominently among the ideas that fire Americans’ imaginations and fuel American controversies. Throughout the nation’s history the two concepts have merged essentially into a single, pervasive passion: opportunity. French writer and politician Alexis de Tocqueville spoke of Americans’ restlessness, of our “bootless chase of...

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pp. xi

The debts we accumulated along the way to producing this book begin with the valuable assistance of our Oregon State University colleagues who helped plan the symposium, select the speakers whose contributions appear in this volume, and organize conference logistics. We extend our special thanks to David J. Brooks, J. Boone Kauffman, Kathleen Dean...

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Introduction: In Search of Western Lands

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pp. 3-20

"If Hollywood wanted to capture the emotional center of Western history,” historian Patricia Nelson Limerick observed, “its movies would be about real estate”—that is, about drawing lines and creating borders. A good contemporary beginning might be the neighborhood of Peace Cove, Oregon, a rural greenscape of nurseries and berry patches...

Part I: Three Perspectives on Property Rights

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Private Property and the Public Interest: Land in the American Idea

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pp. 23-36

Recent incidents indicate that private land-use practices are increasingly seen as important by the general public. After the inaugural Earth Day in 1970, environmental concerns tended to focus on air and water pollution. More recently, however, as the concern for endangered species has intensified, the general public’s attention and...

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Property Rights, Freedom, and Evolving Social Order

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pp. 37-52

What is law? What are private rights, and how do they evolve? What do these ideas have to do with freedom? These questions lie at the heart of any discussion about property rights. Developing answers to these questions requires a two-pronged focus: On the one hand, one must examine the fundamental philosophical...

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New Property Rights Debates: The Dialectics of Naming, Blaming, and Claiming

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pp. 53-74

"In no other country in the world is the love of property keener or more alert than in the United States,” observed the French writer Alexis de Tocqueville more than a century and a half ago. “Everyone,” he added, “having some possession to defend, recognizes the right to property in principle.” Indeed, he contended that it was this ubiquitous...

Part II: Urban and Rural Vantage Points on Property

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Land for Cities, Scenery for City People: Managing Urbanization in the American Grain

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pp. 77-95

Cities and their residents make multiple claims on their places and regions. At one end of the conceptual spectrum there is the most basic claim of all: Underpinning all discussions of urban planning, development policy, and growth management is the expectation that cities have the simple right to exist, that the residents of concentrated...

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From Open Range to Closed Range on the Public Lands

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pp. 96-118

Livestock grazing on public or common lands spans the history of the nation’s westward expansion. European Americans introduced large grazing animals to the “new world”—horses, cows, sheep, pigs, and goats. The animals demanded extensive grazing grounds that took them to coastal savannas, to the forests and mountains, to the rolling...

Part III: Three Case Studies of Land Use

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Dividing the Land: The Taylor Ranch and the Case for Preserving the Limited Access Commons

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pp. 121-144

Since the late 1960s, the people of the San Luis Valley in south-central Colorado have experienced intense litigation involving private property rights and the use of a commons. The case Espinoza v. Taylor has pitted the local inhabitants of San Luis, Colorado, against a North Carolina lumberman for control of a seventy-seven...

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Public Lands and Public Sentiment: A Comparative Look at National Parks

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pp. 145-163

On September 18, 1996, President Bill Clinton intervened in one of the decade’s most virulent conservation fights. Embraced by the vermilion majesty of the Grand Canyon, Clinton asserted the privilege of executive proclamation to declare 1.7 million acres of desert landscape in southern Utah a national monument. By this...

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Owning It All in Alaska: The Political Power of a Rhetorical Paradigm

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pp. 164-189

On a warm summer night in 1958, civic leaders, businesspeople, and politicians took turns putting a torch to an enormous bonfire that workers had been assembling all day. At a park along the southern edge of downtown Anchorage, under a slightly overcast but near-daylight sky because of the “midnight sun,” twenty-five thousand...

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Epilogue: Contested Terrain: The Business of Land in the American West

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pp. 190-206

When I was a graduate student in the early 1970s, the history of the public lands was at the heart of the training for a western historian. Paul Wallace Gates and Vernon Carstensen in particular built on the work of the pioneering historians in the field, Thomas Donaldson, Benjamin Hibbard, Roy Robbins, Fred Shannon, and...


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pp. 207-208


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pp. 209-222

E-ISBN-13: 9780295802893
E-ISBN-10: 0295802898
Print-ISBN-13: 9780295980201
Print-ISBN-10: 0295980206

Publication Year: 2000

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Common good -- History.
  • Right of property -- West (U.S.) -- History.
  • Public lands -- West (U.S.) -- History.
  • Property -- West (U.S.) -- History.
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