An Open Pit Visible from the Moon
The Wilderness Act and the Fight to Protect Miners Ridge and the Public Interest
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
An Open Pit Visible from the Moon tells the story of this historic struggle to define the contours of the Wilderness Act—its possibilities and limits. Combining rigorous analysis and deft storytelling, Adam M. Sowards re-creates the contest between Kennecott and its shareholders on one hand and activists on the other, intent on maintaining wilderness as a place immune to the calculus of profit. A host of actors cross these pages—from cabinet secretaries and a Supreme Court justice to local doctors and college students—all contributing to a drama that made Miners Ridge a cause célèbre for the nation’s wilderness movement. As locals testified at public hearings and writers penned profiles in the nation’s magazines and newspapers, the volatile political economy of copper proved equally influential in frustrating Kennecott’s plans.
No law or court ruling could keep Kennecott from mining copper, but the pit was never dug. Identifying the contingent factors and forces that converged and coalesced in this case, Sowards’s narrative recalls a critical moment in the struggle over the nation’s wild places, even as it puts the unpredictability of history on full display.
“Adam Sowards picks up where John McPhee left off in Encounters with the Archdruid.An Open Pit Visible from the Moon offers an equally engaging and carefully researched account of the Kennecott Copper mining controversy in the Glacier Peak Wilderness. Rather than simplifying the story as a victory of environmental interests over corporate profits, Sowards explains the disparate and sometimes surprising factors that kept Kennecott Copper from mining its claim. This is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding how wilderness politics and protection work.”—James R. Skillen, author of Federal Ecosystem Management: Its Rise, Fall, and Afterlife
“With a clear love for the wild place that caused this historical ruckus . . . Sowards spins a campfire-worthy tale about a controversial fight that has been largely relegated to “footnote” despite its critical role in America’s conservation legacy.” —Montana: The Magazine of Western History
“An Open Pit Visible from the Moon is remarkably well organized, weaving many disparate elements into a cogent whole; it is written clearly in a relaxed and easy-to-read style. . . . [I]n our current times, such citizen action is of critical importance in protecting and preserving both specific landscapes and the public interest in public land.”— Pacific Northwest Quarterly
“[W]e . . . have Sowards’s illuminating and well-written book, which joins the recent work of James Morton Turner, Mark Harvey, and Paul Sutter to cast new light on the importance of wilderness in shaping American culture, society, and politics.”—Journal of Arizona History
“Sowards provides insight into the real on-the-ground struggle and immense obstacles and uncertainties faced by conservationists where the outcome was not preordained or predictable. He tells the story through the eyes of the conservationists involved. It goes beyond just the public and published records and digs deep into their personal files, recollections, newsletters and publications of the conservation groups so that the reader gets a complete picture of the grave challenges they face.”—The Wild Cascades: The Journal of the North Cascades Conservation Council
“Dr. Sowards has produced an intriguing, well-researched and well-documented historical accounting of the fight—initiated at the most basic level of American society—to prevent development of an open-pit mine in a relatively unspoiled area. . . . Sowards has told an intriguing story that occurred at a time when public advocacy, at a considerably basic level when compared to that existing today, was a moving force.”—California Fish and Wildlife