286 pages, 18 halftones
Melody Webb's reflections on her twenty-five-year-long career in the National Park Service is an insider's account of a public bureaucracy. As a woman, she was working in a male-dominated agency; as an idealist, she attempted to champion the wise use of the national parks in a pragmatic political agency.
Webb's career began in Alaska during President Gerald Ford's administration. She helped set up the mechanism that permitted Alaskan Natives to claim up to 2 million acres of federal land to preserve culturally significant areas. Following a dozen years of historic preservation work in Alaska and New Mexico, Webb spent the second half of her tenure in management positions. She served as superintendent at the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park and then as assistant superintendent, in charge of all park operations at Grand Teton National Park. During this period the Park Service was faced with conflicting mandates: there was a growing demand for recreational land use and, at the same time, environmental requirements and tight budgets limited the NPS's options.
Webb's frankness about the day-to-day politics within an institution that many Americans feel should be above politics make this book an eye opener for historians and anyone who has an interest in the National Park System.
[Melody Webb] recounts the trials of preserving the nation's most beautiful and historic places. Pole-axed by politicians, bush-whacked by obstructive congressmen, and ground down by lobbyists of every stripe - from snowmobilers to environmentalists - the NPS battles for its life in behind-the-scenes maneuverings. - Los Angeles Times "Webb's intimate portrayal of day-to-day politics of the National Park System will be an eye-opener to historians and travelers who have enjoyed the scenic beauty of America's 'crown jewels.'" - Arrowhead "[A Woman in the Great Outdoors] should be required reading in every public history course." - Montana, The Magazine of Western History "Webb's candidness in detailing the conflicts within the park system and between preservationists and recreationalists makes this book a must for anyone interested in National Parks and in the service's ability to uphold its mission to conserve and at the same time to provide for the enjoyment of all." - West Texas Historical Association Yearbook"
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