Our Common Ground: A History of America's Public Lands

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by John D. Leshy, 2022. Hardcover, 736 pages.

The little-known story of how the U.S. government came to hold nearly one-third of the nation’s land and manage it primarily for recreation, education, and conservation
“A much-needed chronicle of how the American people decided—wisely and democratically—that nearly a third of the nation’s land surface should remain in our collective ownership and be managed for our common good.”—Dayton Duncan, author of The National Parks: America’s Best Idea
America’s public lands include more than 600 million acres of forests, plains, mountains, wetlands, deserts, and shorelines. In this book, John Leshy, a leading expert in public lands policy, discusses the key political decisions that led to this, beginning at the very founding of the nation. He traces the emergence of a bipartisan political consensus in favor of the national government holding these vast land areas primarily for recreation, education, and conservation of biodiversity and cultural resources.
That consensus remains strong and continues to shape American identity. Such a success story is a bright spot in an era of cynicism about government. This book is essential reading for anyone who cares about public lands, and it is particularly timely as the world grapples with the challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss.

About the Author

John D. Leshy is emeritus professor, University of California Hastings College of Law. He was solicitor for the U.S. Department of the Interior from 1993 to 2001 and is coauthor of Federal Public Land and Resources Law.