Howard Zahniser (1906-1964), executive secretary of The Wilderness Society and editor of The Living Wilderness from 1945 to 1964, is arguably the person most responsible for drafting and promoting the Wilderness Act in 1964. The act, which created the National Wilderness Preservation System, was the culmination of Zahniser's years of tenacious lobbying and his work with conservationists across the nation. In 1964, fifty-four wilderness areas in thirteen states were part of the system; today the number has grown to 757 areas, protecting more than a hundred million acres in forty-four states and Puerto Rico.
Zahniser's passion for wild places and his arguments for their preservation were communicated through radio addresses, magazine articles, speeches, and congressional testimony. An eloquent and often poetic writer, he seized every opportunity to make the case for the value of wilderness to people, communities, and the nation. Despite his unquestioned importance and the power of his prose, the best of Zahniser's wilderness writings have never before been gathered in a single volume. This indispensable collection makes available in one place essays and other writings that played a vital role in persuading Congress and the American people that wilderness in the United States deserved permanent protection.
Mark Harvey, author of the standard biography of Zahniser, provides prefaces to the essays that outline the contexts in which they were written as well as a general introduction to the man whose vision, decency, and quiet passion shine from the pages of The Wilderness Writings of Howard Zahniser.
"Arranged more or less in chronological order, these essays enable us to trace the evolution of Zahniser's thinking at the same time that we see how his life-long devotion to wild nature-sacred to him both for its own sake and for what it offered humanity-enabled him to write so compellingly. It is time at last for those who have experienced the beautiful places protected by the Wilderness Act to experience as well the eloquence and moral passion of the man who wrote it."
– William Cronon, From the foreword
"While Howard Zahniser is a legend among those most dedicated to wilderness preservation, he is not as well-known more broadly. We are so lucky to have this inspiring and eloquent collection of writings from the quiet visionary and principal architect of the Wilderness Preservation System. His powerful words speak to the enduring value of wilderness to our nation-as much today as they did then."
– Jamie Williams, president, The Wilderness Society
""This is a superb collection of the writings of one of the century's foremost conservation writers and leaders. Zahniser's fascination with everyday nature does much to explain his reverence for the community of life. A wonderful addition to literature of environmental history."
– James Morton Turner, author of The Promise of Wilderness
"These carefully selected writings [...] allow environmental historians to see the evolution of an idea that was formative to our field, and demonstrates that wilderness remains a compelling concept to explore relationships between humans and nonhuman beings."
– Sarah Mittlefehldt, H-Net Reviews
"Howard Zahniser (1906-1964) lived and worked in a world of words, and Harvey (North Dakota State Univ.) has done an exemplary job of arranging Zahniser's own words to reveal his heart and soul, from his spiritual foundations as a child to his eight-year battle to secure passage of the Wilderness Act of 1964."
Foreword by William Cronon
1. The Makings of a Nature Writer
2. Transition to the Wilderness Society
3. Campaigning for Wilderness
4. Threats to Wild Lands
5. The Campaign for the Wilderness Bill
6. The Last Hurdle
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Mark Harvey is professor of history at North Dakota State University and the author of Wilderness Forever: Howard Zahniser and the Path to the Wilderness Act and A Symbol of Wilderness: Echo Park and the American Conservation Movement.