Books et al.National Parks

Meditations on conservation

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Science  10 Jun 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6291, pp. 1283
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf7129

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In her new book, The Hour of Land, it would have been easy for Terry Tempest Williams to fall back on "the best idea we ever had"—an interpretation of the U.S. National Parks articulated by Wallace Stegner in 1983 and popularized by Ken Burns in 2009. Instead, Williams asks hard questions about the current relevance and original goodness of America's parks. She offers a poetic revision to the Organic Act of 1916, which mandated the conservation of scenery and wildlife for the enjoyment of the public in such a manner as to leave them unimpaired. In her 400-page mission statement, Williams updates "enjoyment" to spiritual renewal, specifies that "the public" means more than white people, and insists that "unimpaired" means what it says.