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Crimes Against Nature: Squatters, Poachers, Thieves, and the Hidden History of American Conservation

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  224 ratings  ·  19 reviews
Crimes against Nature reveals the hidden history behind three of the nation's first parklands: the Adirondacks, Yellowstone, and the Grand Canyon. Focusing on conservation's impact on local inhabitants, Karl Jacoby traces the effect of criminalizing such traditional practices as hunting, fishing, foraging, and timber cutting in the newly created parks. Jacoby reassesses th ...more
Paperback, 324 pages
Published March 1st 2003 by University of California Press (first published 2001)
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Adam Wiggins
Feb 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, nature
In the US, nature conservation became a major force in the late 1800s. The national government started setting aside large reserves of open land, with the intention of preserving the pristine, wild space and the (often endangered) animals that lived there. Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, and the Adirondack mountains were some of the first of these nature preserves.

It was a massive shift in public attitude to begin caring about wild spaces as something other than a place to extract resources. And
Dan Allosso
Jun 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
I liked this so much that I use the chapter on the Adirondacks in my undergrad class. My students are usually surprised to discover the Progressive impulse toward conservation had a dark side. They're somewhat less surprised to learn that the elite men who championed conservation had personal interests in the wilderness as a sort of private reserve for members of their own class. One of the things I liked about the book was that it led me to ask a lot of questions about how places like the Adiro ...more
Margaret Sankey
Mar 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
While the official history of the national parks is one of conservation for all, the ugly underside is that the establishment of nature reserves severely dislocated traditional communities and installed restrictive limits on land use and hunting, provoking violent and long-term resistance from the people who lived in the region. Jacoby digs into the records to find angry Adirondack settlers resentful of the wealthy estates that choked off their access to logging and pelts and replaced those inco ...more
Aug 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history-read-us
This was a terrific book; it was well written and well researched, and the case studies chosen provided an excellent set of views of how various people and the state have interacted in regard to the environment. It fit extremely well with my crime & justice focused US history survey, and the students who opted to read the book for their assignment all had great things to say about it. I'd definitely use it again. ...more
Aug 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
An excellent read, is not the typical conservation history book you might think, instead it reveals the dark, violent and tragic side of American conservation history that were often ignored. What happened to the rural communities and Native Americans were too "politically inconvenient" to be brought up because it will make you second-guess the modern conservation is nothing but good. This book prompts readers to rethink the reason for conservation efforts, and to what extent should human sacri ...more
Laura HP
Dec 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Fascinating book on an aspect of natural park history you don't hear much about! The author does a great job of considering the various perspectives of people involved in the parks - the locals who often had to move or lose land rights when the parks were established, the park rangers, the ecologists trying to figure out the best way to preserve this land. Fun and engaging to read - and thought-provoking!
Oct 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was awesome and definitely representative of the kind of environmental history work I want to produce one day.

Jacoby does an excellent job in creating these case studies for readers to really see and understand this earlier form of rural gentrification that the early conservation movement brought on. This book is not anti-environmental; it calls into question questionable practices and gives a voice to the near voiceless like any great bottom-up history should.
Mar 28, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In general, the conservation movement in the United States tends to be told as a relatively clean narrative of humans reaching a consensus that some "nature" should be preserved or unused or otherwise regulated. Similar international conservationist movements tend to reveal more of a struggle between governments and poor people who have claims to the land. In this book, Karl Jacoby writes about how the American story of conservation was riddled with controversy over land use by the government an ...more
karl jacoby writing and analysis is so captivating. each time i open his books, i get the sense of clearness and simplicity. he takes all of the actors and lays them out through a finely interwoven analysis of the contingent and structural; of course, there is no good guy-bad guy narrative. this book is especially important to me because I 19m going into conservation and understanding the historical context of my future work is important to me.
he focuses on three cases (Adirondacks, Yellowstone
Laura Paradis
Aug 04, 2010 rated it liked it
The nationalism of nature at the demise of Native American populations who used the land to survive -- hunt, forage, grow food. Militarization of Yellow Stone made little headway to remove squatters and poachers who took advantage of these lands at the expense of others.

His points in the epilogue are particularly important to remember
1. that nature was and has been nationalized, under a set of rules to protect them against the 'backwoodsman' the 'Indian' and to keep good game huntin' land.
2. Th
Jan 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
Lots more white dudes, but they're non-elites this time! I actually really liked this book, and it did make more of an effort to be inclusive than many other books about conservation. The early Yellowstone game wardens' diaries were fascinating. There's also a detailed description of Adirondack life right at the beginning of tourism there and locals' efforts to conserve game in the face of sport hunters. It's a nice counter-narrative to all the stories about how sport hunters were the real conse ...more
Nov 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A look at the other side of the conservation movement. This book takes a more balanced look at the conservation of the Adirondacks, Yellowstone, and the Grand Canyon (all near and dear to my heart). It explains the side of the locals, Indians and Euro-Americans, and some of what they felt and understood as suddenly their home was taken over by the upper class law makers.
A must read for anyone who loves these places.
Isaac Timm
Aug 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012, history
A very interesting historic look at a movement that has be polarized and simplified by the whole political spectrum. It's a sweeping view of class, land use, industrial expansion, and conservation in the west that should be read by every environmental historian. Not to mention those who create land-use policy.
Laurel Braitman
Oct 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent story of the 'hidden' history of our national parks and protected areas. It is a portrait of the ways in which we have, in the hope of protecting nature (itself a complicated and sometimes arrogant notion), created new ways of punishing those people who would like to do the same.
Dec 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
an interesting look at how locals dealt with their land suddenly becoming national park and how park officials dealth with trespassers and poachers. This book looks at the Adirondacks, Yellowstone, and the Grand Canyon.
Sep 22, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-for-school
I had to read this book for school and it actually was pretty interesting. It discusses the creation of Adirondacks State Park, Yellowstone, and the Grand Canyon and how it affected the different people living in those areas.
Apr 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing
The dark underbelly of environmentalism. This book made me question the pride I have felt in the history of the environmental movement. One of the best translations of academic work into book form. It's highly readable, well done, and an excellent addition to the "peoples history" canon.
Sep 06, 2012 rated it liked it
Great book if you are interested in historical readings. This book gives you a perspective of seeing it from someone who was there to experience things. Also, it gave you a better understanding and you were able to place yourself in that period of time.
Dec 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: for-class
I read this for an environmental history class, but it was really well written and the stories were informative as well as interesting. Not bad for a text book.
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“Because neither corn nor wheat grew well in the Adirondacks, the favored crop was potatoes ("Our food was mostly fish and potatoes then for a change we would have potatoes and fish," recalled one early inhabitant), occasionally supplemented by peas, rye, buckwheat, or oats.” 0 likes
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