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Public Lands in the Western US Place and Politics in the Clash between Public and Private



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Book Chapter

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Chapter 9. The philosophies and views of nature prevalent in the 19th century West shaped the early National Park Service, and continue to influence park policy today. Park-builders incorrectly viewed early parks as untouched “wilderness,” even as Native peoples continued to occupy, revere, and actively manage lands and resources on these lands. This misapprehension fostered the creation and enforcement of park regulations meant to protect wild spaces, resulting in the displacement of both Native peoples and the culturally significant habitats that they had helped sustain for millennia. Among these regulations, federally imposed restrictions on burning and other traditional plant community management, as well as on plant gathering have been noticeably disruptive to the cultural and natural heritage of park lands. We address Native plant habitat management traditions, and their disruption through land conservation efforts, in one of the world’s premier national parks: Yosemite National Park. In addition, we explore new mechanisms that seek to restore the Native presence and the impress of Native ecological practices on the land – including NPS-sponsored burning programs and plant gathering rules. While federal recognition and facilitation of plant gathering seems a positive step, these developments continue to be contested by stakeholders across the political spectrum.


© Rowman & Littlefield 2020

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