The Power of Scenery: Frederick Law Olmsted and the Origin of National Parks

Dennis Drabelle.. Bison, $29.95 (272p) ISBN 978-1-4962-2077-6
Drabelle, an editor at the Washington Post Book World unpacks the founding of the national parks in this fascinating history (after Mile-High Fever). The idea that the state had a duty to safeguard untamed expanses of wilderness was created and driven, Drabelle writes, by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. Things began with a report Olmsted wrote in 1865 for the newly created Yosemite Valley state park. In it, Olmsted expounded a democratic vision for the preservation and enjoyment of natural landscapes that were then being "discovered" (by non-native people). Americans, Olmsted thought, needed "to disarm their calculating and scheming powers" in the "nonutilitarian enjoyment of wild nature." He presented this paper to commissioners, junketeers, and politicians, and, after years of advocacy, in 1872, Yellowstone became the first national park. This was followed by Mackinac National Park in Michigan three years later (since reclassified as a state park) and Banff in Canada in 1885. Drabelle's careful attention to the wider political and cultural currents of the time makes for an astute history that colorfully traces the development of the laws, agencies, and departments that made the National Park Service what it is. It's a great look at the early underpinnings of the American conservation movement. (Nov.)
Reviewed on : 10/12/2021
Release date: 11/01/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
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