The Idaho Humanities Council sponsored readings and conversation series on wilderness, marking the 50th anniversary of The Wilderness Act of 1964, combines deep reading in wilderness history and policy with lectures from scholars across the state. Five week sessions in Hailey at the College of Southern Idaho Blaine County Center, at Moscow City Hall, Lewiston City Library and currently at Boise’s Foothill’s Learning Center delve into wilderness imagined, pursued, framed, guarded and the particular wilderness idea in Idaho.

“We will consider how we view wilderness today, from the vantage points of modern-day campsites, canyons and suburban cul-de-sacs, tracing maps that are both material and mythological,” a description of the series reads.

Below, with permission from Idaho Humanities Council, is a hyperlinked version of the syllabus. All effort has been made to find open source versions of the texts, though not all are available online. Feel free to leave links to your favorite wilderness source texts in the comments below.

Theodore Roosevelt and John Burroughs

Theodore Roosevelt and John Burroughs at campsite in Yellowstone Park. [1903?] Theodore Roosevelt Digital Library. Dickinson State University.

Considered: Wilderness Syllabus

Main Text

Michael Lewis, ed., American Wilderness: A New History, 2007.

Michael Lewis, American Wilderness

American Wilderness: A New History, Michael Lewis, ed.

Wilderness Imagined

How has wilderness been imagined in the past, in the context of American history? How does it inform our sense of national and individual identity? What kind of mythology does wilderness offer?

Lisa Brady, “At the Edge of Wilderness: Reflections on the 50th Anniversary of the 1964 Wilderness Act,” Idaho Humanities, Winter 2014.

William Bradford, “Errand into the Wilderness,” ~1620

Henry David Thoreau, “Walking,” 1862 [annotated version]. “I must walk toward Oregon, and not toward Europe.” — Thoreau, “Walking”

John Muir, “The Wild Parks and Forest Reservations of the West,” Ch. 1 of Our National Parks, 1901.

Michael Lewis, “American Wilderness: An Introduction,” in Lewis, 3-14.

Melanie Perreault, “American Wilderness and First Contact,” in Lewis, 15-34.

Mark Stoll, “Religion ‘Irradiates’ the Wilderness,” in Lewis, 35-54.

Wilderness Pursued

How do we, as humans, engage with wilderness? How do we come to know it through observing, hunting, fishing, etc.? What do these literary pieces suggest about the relationship between humans and the wild?

Sarah Orne Jewett, “A White Heron,” originally published 1886.

Theodore Roosevelt, “Wilderness Reserves: Yellowstone Park,” in Constructing Nature: Readings from the American Experience, Richard Jenseth and Edward Lotto, eds.

Ernest Hemingway, “Big Two-Hearted River” (Parts 1 and 2).

Elizabeth Bishop, “The Fish.”

Bradley P. Dean, “Natural History, Romanticism, and Thoreau,” in Lewis, 73-90.

Angela Miller, “The Fate of Wilderness in American Landscape Art: The Dilemmas of ‘Nature’s Nation’” in Lewis, 91-112.

Wilderness Framed

How has wilderness been defined legally over time, and how has management been affected by legislation and public policy? What kind of framework for wilderness does the Wilderness Act of 1964 establish? How have the National Park Service, the Forest Service and other agencies designed the public’s wilderness experience?

Aldo Leopold, “Wilderness as a Form of Land Use,” 1925.

Wallace Stegner, “The Wilderness Letter,” 1960.

The Wilderness Act of 1964

Benjamin Johnson, “Wilderness Parks and Their Discontents,” in Lewis, 113-130.

Char Miller, “A Sylvan Prospect: John Muir, Gifford Pinchot, and Early Twentieth-Century Conservationism,” in Lewis, 131-148.

Paul Sutter, “Putting Wilderness in Context: The Interwar Origins of the Modern Wilderness Idea,” in Lewis, 167-186.

Mark Harvey, “Loving the Wild in Postwar America,” in Lewis, 187-204.

Howard Zahniser, “The Need for Wilderness Areas,” 1956 [doc].

Wilderness Guarded

Pete Fromm, Indian Creek Chronicles

Indian Creek Chronicles, Pete Fromm

What does it mean, on a personal level, to go into the wilderness? How do certain scientific goals and ideas for wilderness – such as salmon restoration, as described in this book – play out on the ground?

Pete Fromm, Indian Creek Chronicles: A Winter Alone in the Wilderness, 2003.

Wilderness Brought Home

How is wilderness mapped in Idaho today?

Owyhee Initiative Agreement

Boulder-White Clouds Monument Issue

Rocky Barker, “Idea for a Boulder White Clouds Monument Makes Custer County Uneasy,” Idaho Statesman, Dec. 15, 2013.

John Freemuth “Monument Proclamation Could be Right Call for Idaho,” Idaho Statesman, Dec. 18, 2013.

John Rember, “Against a Boulder-White Clouds Wilderness,” Boise Weekly, Nov. 13, 2013.

James Morton Turner, “The Politics of Modern Wilderness,” in Lewis, 243-262.

Donald Worster, “Epilogue: Nature, Liberty, and Equality,” in Lewis, 263-272.

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The views and opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of Boise State University, the Center for Idaho History and Politics, or the School of Public Service.

  • John Aiton
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    William M. Denevan

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