Department of Environmental Studies, Huxley College of the Environment at WWU
Currently I am working on a major study of the role the wilderness idea has played in national park history in the United States. Wilderness was an idea that contributed to the national park movement, especially through the advocacy of John Muir. Yet, ever since the National Park Service was created in 1916 that agency has struggled with how it should incorporate the concept of wilderness into its thinking. It was, for instance, opposed to the Wilderness Act in the early stages of the effort to pass that legislation. Then, after the Act was approved by Congress, it was slow to do the review of its road less lands required by that legislation. What was behind the long ambivalence of this agency about the idea of wilderness? That is the question I hope my study will answer.
Another research interest is the history of the conservation movement. I have written about the National Parks and Conservation Association (they recently removed the “and” from their name). My work on national park wilderness has required that I spend extensive time in the records of The Wilderness Society, and I am interested in the story of that organization. Perhaps I will try to tell its story.
Another project I have been working on for several years is a comparison of how the land has been managed north and south of the international boundary between British Columbia and the state of Washington.
On the educational side of things, I am exploring how “sense of place” can be taught in environmental education programs. We have a masters program in EE in cooperation with the North Cascades Institute, and I hope to use my work with this program to explore this and then write about it.
And when that is all done, there is always the environmental history of the North Cascades region, which I have been studying for more than 20 years. Here I am interested in the different conceptions of this place that have existed in the minds of Native Americans and the various groups of Americans that have made it their place of work or domicile. What have these conceptions led them to do on the land? What changes have they wrought?