This Land: Book summary and reviews of This Land by Christopher Ketcham

This Land

How Cowboys, Capitalism, and Corruption are Ruining the American West

by Christopher Ketcham

This Land by Christopher Ketcham X
This Land by Christopher Ketcham
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About this book

Book Summary

A hard-hitting look at the battle now raging over the fate of the public lands in the American West--and a plea for the protection of these last wild places.

The public lands of the western United States comprise some 450 million acres of grassland, steppe land, canyons, forests, and mountains. It's an American commons, and it is under assault as never before.

Journalist Christopher Ketcham has been documenting the confluence of commercial exploitation and governmental misconduct in this region for over a decade. His revelatory book takes the reader on a journey across these last wild places, to see how capitalism is killing our great commons. Ketcham begins in Utah, revealing the environmental destruction caused by unregulated public lands livestock grazing, and exposing rampant malfeasance in the federal land management agencies, who have been compromised by the profit-driven livestock and energy interests they are supposed to regulate. He then turns to the broad effects of those corrupt politics on wildlife. He tracks the Department of Interior's failure to implement and enforce the Endangered Species Act--including its stark betrayal of protections for the grizzly bear and the sage grouse--and investigates the destructive behavior of U.S. Wildlife Services in their shocking mass slaughter of animals that threaten the livestock industry. Along the way, Ketcham talks with ecologists, biologists, botanists, former government employees, whistleblowers, grassroots environmentalists and other citizens who are fighting to protect the public domain for future generations.

This Land is a colorful muckraking journey--part Edward Abbey, part Upton Sinclair--exposing the rot in American politics that is rapidly leading to the sell-out of our national heritage. The book ends with Ketcham's vision of ecological restoration for the American West: freeing the trampled, denuded ecosystems from the effects of grazing, enforcing the laws already in place to defend biodiversity, allowing the native species of the West to recover under a fully implemented Endangered Species Act, and establishing vast stretches of public land where there will be no development at all, not even for recreation.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Echoing writers such as Bernard DeVoto, Edward Abbey, and Aldo Leopold, Ketcham underscores the crucial importance of diverse, wild ecosystems...Angry, eloquent, and urgent—required reading for anyone who cares about the Earth." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Ketcham's indictment of national environmental policy isn't evenhanded, but it is powerful." - Publishers Weekly

"As Christopher Ketcham says so eloquently in these pages, the vast public lands are perhaps America's greatest legacy, a landscape of the scale necessary to help preserve the diversity of life on a hot planet in a tough century. That's why we need to pay such attention to the stories he tells of the threats they face." - Bill McKibben, author of Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?

"Christopher Ketcham is a marvelously fresh and forceful voice, one unaffected by the squishy language and languid resistance of our grotesquely compromised (and well-funded) environmental organizations. Instructive and swiftly, smartly written, this book about the pillage and poisoning of our public lands reinvigorates writing as a force for outrage and change at the same time as it returns us to the clear-headed, big-hearted zeal of classic environmental works." - Joy Williams, author of The Florida Keys

"As potent in its way as Silent Spring. This book will open your eyes to the greed and abuse destroying our public lands. Better yet, it will make you angry." - T. C. Boyle, author of Outside Looking In

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Reader Reviews

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Christine L. Christian

Must Read
Outstanding. Ketchum captures the very essence of the problem and it is quite gratifying to read that his opinion of the Mormons and the Cattlemen exactly matches mine. Things I have been saying for years are written like the author was reading my mind. I'm onboard. For those looking for a Higher Calling, this is the one.

Erik Molvar

Ketcham gets it right
There are a great many ugly truths about federal land management in the American West, and This Land exposes a lot of them. It's easy to get fooled by the sophisticated and self-serving propaganda put out by the exploitive industries that make their profits from federal public lands, and degrade and destroy those lands in the process. Indeed, many independent journalists over the years have failed to exercise critical thinking when presented with false narratives: Ranchers are good stewards of the land, the oil industry really cares about sage grouse conservation, exploiting public lands is the cornerstone of rural western economies. Ketcham doesn't fall for it, and instead does his own homework. The result is an incisive look into the corruption that riddles federal land management, and has done so for decades under administrations of both parties. Get the book, and learn more about what's going on with your public lands.

A careful reader

Sloppy reporting, self-centered
This book contains serious errors and is more of a self-indulgent rant than careful reporting. Christopher Ketcham professes to care about public lands. He complains about the Trump administration but he worked to get Trump elected (Google it), knowing perfectly well that Trump's policies would be bad for America's public lands.

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Author Information

Christopher Ketcham

Christopher Ketcham has written for dozens of publications, including Harper's, National Geographic, and The New Republic. He has reported from the American West for more than a decade. His book This Land is a product of those years in the last wild places. He currently lives in the Catskill Mountains of New York.

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