A 2020 Goodreads Choice Awards Semifinalist: Best Science & Technology
“Kenyon’s writing and traveling style are equally companionable…he evokes in his prose an appealing sense of shared experience…a strong argument for why two often politically opposed factions, hunters and environmentalists, should come together under the #KeepItPublic banner…succeeds in making the political simultaneously personal and universal.” —Publishers Weekly
“An intimate escape for adventure seekers.” —Seattle PI
“When friends complain to me about the ideological divisions ripping America in two, I cheer them up with stories about our public lands. Right now, groups and individuals as diverse as the nation itself are coalescing around the rallying cry of ‘Keep It Public’ as we fight to defend the environmental integrity and accessibility of our public lands. Let Mark Kenyon’s That Wild Country be our guiding text. Not only does Kenyon tell you why and how we have public lands, but he also tells you why and how we’ll keep them. Read this book and join the movement.” —Steven Rinella, bestselling author of The MeatEater Fish and Game Cookbook and American Buffalo
“This is a must-read for all public-land owners. Mark weaves his own adventures and connections to public land into the history on how we were gifted this great legacy. Read this book, be inspired, and become engaged.” —Land Tawney, president and CEO of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers
“More than a century ago John Muir warned that ‘Wilderness is a necessity…They will see what I meant in time.’ For better or worse we have arrived in the cultural moment that the wandering Scotsman foresaw, when the landscapes that are most vital to the survival of America’s soul are also the most jeopardized. Thoroughly immersed in said moment, with pure heart and true aim, Mark Kenyon has written an engrossing walkabout of his own that pairs an impassioned, unquenchable desire for wild country with a rare, marksman-cool ability to articulate the complex issues and stakes in our fight for public lands. A wonderful debut.” —Chris Dombrowski, author of Body of Water
“America’s public lands are under assault, from chronic underfunding, development interests, invasive species, and climate change, among other threats. Against this backdrop, Mark Kenyon eloquently explores how many of these public lands came to be, and why they are more important today than ever. That Wild Country is more than a lesson; it is a personal journey of discovery to which all public-lands users, from hikers and boaters to hunters and anglers, can relate.” —Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
Wilderness blogger and podcaster Kenyon documents a historically and environmentally aware road trip in his inspiring debut. Reacting against a new conservative movement to transfer federally owned wilderness into private hands, Kenyon decided to “literally ground self in” the U.S.’s public land system, embarking on a grand tour in which he made time for, among other things, backpacking in Yellowstone, antler collecting in Missouri, and fishing in the Lewis and Clark National Forest. Kenyon’s writing and traveling style are equally companionable; accompanied at various points by his wife, father, and friends, he evokes in his prose an appealing sense of shared experience. These more experiential sections alternate with historically centered ones that detail how the American wilderness first came under federal protection. Though the legislative details are rather dry, Kenyon successfully communicates his deep admiration for the visionaries responsible, among them Bob Marshall, John Muir, and Theodore Roosevelt. He also makes a strong argument for why two often politically opposed factions, hunters and environmentalists, should come together under the #KeepItPublic banner. Jumping between memoir and government history makes Kenyon’s book somewhat sprawling, but it succeeds in making the political simultaneously personal and universal. Agent: Farley Chase, Chase Literary. (Dec.)
A nature writer and hunting and fishing podcaster offers an account of his travels in and the history of American public lands.
American citizens, writes Kenyon, "are collective co-owners of…approximately 640 million acres" of land designated for outdoor recreational activities like camping, hiking, hunting, and fishing. In his first book, the author explores a variety of federally protected natural areas, including Yellowstone National Park, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, and Arches National Park, while delving into the embattled history of America's wild places. Born into a family of Michigan hunters and anglers, Kenyon's passion for the outdoors developed after college. His research into American public lands transformed him into a political advocate who, over the course of 18 months, traveled across the United States to ground himself in the "national forests, monuments, wildlife refuges and wilderness…that hung in the balance." Camping trips, like one he took through the "shimmering plains and badland buttes" of North Dakota's Theodore Roosevelt National Park, made the author aware that such areas received federal protection only because champions like Roosevelt stood up to industrialists and developers who sought to use the land for profit. Laws, such as Roosevelt's Antiquities Act of 1906, granted presidents sole executive power to "designate lands as having ‘historical landmarks, historic preservation structures and other objects of scientific interest.' " However, legislation has never guaranteed that natural areas would receive protected status or that lands with that status would remain safe from predation. Kenyon cites the case of the 1980s Sagebrush Rebellion, which sought to place control of federally protected Western lands into the hands of privatization-friendly state governments. The author also references Donald Trump's legal encroachments on the Antiquities Act and reductions of such wilderness areas as the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. Thoughtfully observed throughout, Kenyon's book offers fond recollections of his experiences in the American outdoors while reminding readers of their obligation to protect their right to lands too often taken for granted.
An intimate and informative journey.