I just finished reading a great book about right here.
Nobody should drive this section of the country without this mandatory reading list.
The book is The Big Burn.
On the surface, it’s about the Great Fire in 1910. But the deeper thing is that the fire heralded a huge cultural change that took over the USA and then eventually went around the world. President Theodore Roosevelt, Forester Gifford Pinchot and naturalist John Muir were giving a painful political birth to the idea of nature conservation, and this fire became the crucible that wrested the great expanses of nature out of the private corporate hands and into the public realm. The debate about the unspoiled western lands was effectively over once this fire happened. Eventually, years later, the USA even re-purchased all the mountainous non-agricultural lands back in the east and took them back from private hands and put them back into the public realm. The national forests, national parks and wilderness areas in the USA are all-together much larger than most countries in the world. It’s a huge natural endowment.
This was the first time that protecting the future was ever really articulated in western politics. Up until this disaster, it was all a case of “skinning the land” as fast as possible. Suddenly, nature was something that needed measures to protect and manage it so that the future people have the same chance as the people today.
For the Canadians in the audience, the book goes into some detail about how this vision eventually caused all the logging and natural exploitation to end up in Canada and all the recreation and conservation to end up in the USA. Sad for Canada.
The book is a thrilling read this year (the same year in which Fort McMurray burned). The parallels and differences are all very poignant.