Water, Land, and Law in the West

The Limits of Public Policy

Donald J. Pisani

This volume features the best and most influential essays by Donald Pisani, one of our nation's leading environmental and western historians. Collectively, the essays highlight the central role played by land, water, and timber allocation in the American West and show how efforts to achieve justice and efficiency were compromised by the region's obsession with achieving rapid economic growth.

Pisani's work underscores the importance of natural resources to the American vision of opportunity and social progress, as well as the limits of federal influence in resolving the complex tensions between national and local control, between government regulation and laissez-faire capitalism, between democratic and corporate power, and between development and conservation.

“Pisani painstakingly researches his subject, thoughtfully analyzes its implications, and writes clearly and perceptively. Bringing these articles together is a tribute to his skills and a valuable contribution to students of the history of the West, the environment, natural resources, and the Progressive Era.

—Journal of American History

“Taken as a whole, these essays constitute a broad overview of Pisani’s contributions to the field of natural resource history, an excellent source of information and interpretation of a complex subject.

—Western Historical Quarterly
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His work reminds us that westerners, ever wary of any form of centralized planning, have been far more supportive of the marketplace than government direction, and he demonstrates just how difficult it is to alter natural resource policies to keep pace with changing times and values. For those already familiar with Pisani or those coming to him for the first time, this is an invaluable volume.

About the Author

Donald J. Pisani, Merrick Professor of History at the University of Oklahoma, is the author of To Reclaim a Divided West: Water, Law, and Public Policy, 1848-1902, and From Family Farm to Agribusiness: The Irrigation Crusade in California and the West, 1850-1931.

Additional Titles in the Development of Western Resources Series