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Book review: Examining the national park idea in 'To Conserve Unimpaired'

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 2 2015 3:13 a.m. MDT

"To Conserve Unimpaired: The Evolution of the National Park Idea" is by Robert B. Keiter, a professor at the University of Utah. (Island Press) "To Conserve Unimpaired: The Evolution of the National Park Idea" is by Robert B. Keiter, a professor at the University of Utah. (Island Press)

"THE CONSERVE UNIMPAIRED: The Evolution of the National Park Idea" by Robert B. Keiter, Island Press, $35, 343 pages (nf)

When national parks were first established, there were not many guidelines in place to regulate the new national treasures. National parks are different things to different people, and in “To Conserve Unimpaired — The Evolution of the National Park Idea,” Utahn Robert B. Keiter explores the challenges of protecting these national wonders while keeping them accessible to an ever-expanding number of visitors.

Trying to please everyone, conservationists and pleasure seekers alike, is not an easy task. The Organic Act is the basic law governing the national parks — its fundamental tenants are to conserve the parks unimpaired and to provide for the enjoyment of them. Putting both sides of the law into action is a balancing act not easily accomplished.

Keiter examines these ideas in a well-researched, academic treatment of the national park system. He looks at the parks as wilderness sanctuaries, tourist attractions, commercial commodities, and laboratories for experimenting and educating. The challenge is to reconcile the differing demands on the system while questioning the best way to preserve and protect them for future generations. He writes, “Still widely heralded as ‘America’s best idea,’ the national parks actually represent an assortment of ideas that have evolved over time.”

Keiter is the Wallace Stegner professor of law, university distinguished professor and founding director of the Wallace Stegner Center of Land, Resources and the Environment at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law. He lives just outside Salt Lake City in Emigration Canyon.

If you go ...

What: Bob Keiter discussion and book signing

When: Thursday, June 6, reception 6 p.m., reading 7 p.m.

Where: The King’s English, 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City

Web: kingsenglish.com

After attending BYU and the University of Utah for five years and not being able to settle on just one major, Connie Lewis decided to be a writer so she could keep studying all things wonderful and new.

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