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Publisher's Summary

A hard-hitting look at the battle now raging over the fate of the public lands in the American West - and a plea for the protection of these last wild places

The public lands of the western United States comprise some 450 million acres of grassland, steppe land, canyons, forests, and mountains. It's an American commons, and it is under assault as never before.

Journalist Christopher Ketcham has been documenting the confluence of commercial exploitation and governmental misconduct in this region for over a decade. His revelatory book takes the listener on a journey across these last wild places, to see how capitalism is killing our great commons. Ketcham begins in Utah, revealing the environmental destruction caused by unregulated public lands livestock grazing, and exposing rampant malfeasance in the federal land management agencies, who have been compromised by the profit-driven livestock and energy interests they are supposed to regulate. He then turns to the broad effects of those corrupt politics on wildlife. He tracks the Department of Interior's failure to implement and enforce the Endangered Species Act - including its stark betrayal of protections for the grizzly bear and the sage grouse - and investigates the destructive behavior of US Wildlife Services in their shocking mass slaughter of animals that threaten the livestock industry. Along the way, Ketcham talks with ecologists, biologists, botanists, former government employees, whistleblowers, grassroots environmentalists, and other citizens who are fighting to protect the public domain for future generations. 

This Land is a colorful muckraking journey - part Edward Abbey, part Upton Sinclair - exposing the rot in American politics that is rapidly leading to the sell-out of our national heritage. The book ends with Ketcham's vision of ecological restoration for the American West: freeing the trampled, denuded ecosystems from the effects of grazing, enforcing the laws already in place to defend biodiversity, allowing the native species of the West to recover under a fully implemented Endangered Species Act, and establishing vast stretches of public land where there will be no development at all, not even for recreation.

Cover Photo courtesy of TWIG Media/Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance

©2019 Christopher Ketcham (P)2019 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"As Christopher Ketcham says so eloquently in these pages, the vast public lands are perhaps America's greatest legacy, a landscape of the scale necessary to help preserve the diversity of life on a hot planet in a tough century. That's why we need to pay such attention to the stories he tells of the threats they face." (Bill McKibben, author of Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?)
 



 

"Christopher Ketcham is a marvelously fresh and forceful voice, one unaffected by the squishy language and languid resistance of our grotesquely compromised (and well-funded) environmental organizations. Instructive and swiftly, smartly written, this book about the pillage and poisoning of our public lands reinvigorates writing as a force for outrage and change at the same time as it returns us to the clear-headed, big-hearted zeal of classic environmental works." (Joy Williams, author of The Florida Keys)

"As potent in its way as Silent Spring. This book will open your eyes to the greed and abuse destroying our public lands. Better yet, it will make you angry." (T. C. Boyle, author of Outside Looking In)

What listeners say about This Land

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You need to read this book

This is one of the most important works of narrative journalism I’ve ever read. It’s an honest, introspective and well rounded accounting of what we’ve done with our public lands and wild spaces. The author writes with a cadence that oscillates between grief and venom for what’s been destroyed and who’s to blame for destroying it. The targets of that spite are found with equal opportunity across the spectrum which is a testament to his credibility and how clearly he sees the issues he’s tackling. 10/10 I can’t recommend this enough.

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Suddenly we have dropped Nature Conservancy from our donations

A tough read but necessary for every remnant 60’s environmentalist that wants to understand a new generation of activism & how we lost the war.

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Read or listen to this and care

Start giving a damn about our public lands and start doing something about preserving and increasing them.

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Clear view of the west

This book exposes the truthful and dark side surrounding public lands and their management in the west. Everyone should read this book and anyone who spends time roaming the west must read it.

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Piously Abbeyesque

This is a book you can't help but compare to the work of Ed Abbey, so I will. Ed Abbey was the kind of writer who, if he noticed he was preaching to the choir, would slip in a few heresies just to see if anyone was actually paying attention. Christopher Ketcham, on the other hand, knows he is preaching to the choir and is careful not to offend the congregation. He writes well, but if you're familiar with the orthodoxy of the environmentalist left you already know what he's going to say. You'll agree with him most of the time. When you don't, you'll remember a friend having made the same case Ketcham does, along with your counterarguments. There are no surprises. The reversal of position on livestock when one moves from cattle to horses, especially, is tiresome--and especially jarring coming after lengthy denunciation of the cowboy mythos and resulting attitudes towards the land. But, since this is established dogma on the left, the cognitive dissonance it should produce in the reader is dulled by familiarity. That said, I found Ketcham's discussions of fire and emotional attitudes towards animals interesting and well worth reading.

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One of the best books I have read in years

This book is beautifully written and the production, read by the author, carries with it a depth of feeling and emotion that align with the gravity of the book and the prose with which it was written. This book should be required reading and is one of the most important books I have read about the environment, the West and protecting public lands. I can’t recommend it more highly.

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This book will get you worked up a bit

As someone that has lived in Wyoming all of 4 decades I have seen cattle and big energy degrade the land, pollute the air and suck its water dry. This book further cements my belief that saving the West’s habitat and wildlife is the most important issue that the region needs deal with immediately. The author has no clear solution because this is a tough one, but he spills out the real problems we face here.

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Informative but very political

I appreciate Ketchum’s research into the public land use debate, but even for someone who tends to agree with his overall stance, this book spends a lot of time and energy on Ketchum’s personal political beliefs that don’t really serve the book as a whole. Even with a political topic like this I felt he went overboard and felt like I was sitting in on an undergrad environmental science lab discussion at times.

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An absolute must read

As someone who has walked from Mexico to Oregon I can personally attest to the destruction cows have reeked on the landscape and natural water sources, how clear cutting has scared the mountainsides with large geometric patterns of barren stumps and dirt. Listen to Ketcham. He tells the truth. Get this book.

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Passionate but misguided man hates humans

I actually found it fascinating to hear this point of view. I love public lands and to an extent I can agree with him that they should be protected and not infringed on. His perspective of absolutism is where I feel bad for him. Overall well written and read. He paints these elaborate pictures of his journeys and opinions quite eloquently. You'll leave this book feeling either fired up in one way or another, or like me, left feeling sorry for him.