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Longleaf Select University Press Titles Spring/Summer 2021

A Wild Idea
How the Environmental Movement Tamed the Adirondacks
By (author): Brad Edmondson
Brad Edmondson


Three Hills



Product Form:



General Trade : Age (years) 18
May 15, 2021
$40.95 CAD


9in x 6 x 1.1 in | 560 gr

Page Count:

304 pages


20 color photos, 2 maps
Cornell University Press
Three Hills
TRAVEL / Parks & Campgrounds
History of the Americas|Conservation of the environment|Travel guides: caravan and camp-site guides

A Wild Idea shares the complete story of the difficult birth of the Adirondack Park Agency (APA). The Adirondack region of New York's rural North Country forms the nation's largest State Park, with a territory as large as Vermont. Planning experts view the APA as a triumph of sustainability that balances human activity with the preservation of wild ecosystems. The truth isn't as pretty. The story of the APA, told here for the first time, is a complex, troubled tale of political dueling and communities pushed to the brink of violence.

The North Country's environmental movement started among a small group of hunters and hikers, rose on a huge wave of public concern about pollution that crested in the early 1970s, and overcame multiple obstacles to "save" the Adirondacks. Edmondson shows how the movement's leaders persuaded a powerful Governor to recruit planners, naturalists, and advisors and assign a task that had never been attempted before. The team and the politicians who supported them worked around the clock to draft two visionary land-use plans and turn them into law. But they also made mistakes, and their strict regulations were met with determined opposition from local landowners who insisted that private property is private.

A Wild Idea is based on in-depth interviews with five dozen insiders who are central to the story. Their observations contain many surprising and shocking revelations. This is a rich, exciting narrative about state power and how it was imposed on rural residents. It shows how the Adirondacks were "saved," and also why that campaign sparked a passionate rebellion.

Brad Edmondson is the author of Environmental Affairs in New York State, Ice Cream Social, and Postwar Cornell. Visit bradedmondson.com for more information.

"A Wild Idea is a compelling narrative full of lessons for anyone who cares about how government works. Brad Edmondson reveals civic engagement as a story of relationships, and he does a masterful job of tale-spinning about beloved and controversial Adirondack Park."

- Sam Roberts, New York Times

"A Wild Idea is a comprehensive and fascinating account of a truly important moment in the planet's conservation history. The Adirondacks, uniquely, tries to balance human and natural economies in the same place. Thank heaven for the people who made this effort over many generations!"

- Bill McKibben, author of Wandering Home

"Ardent environmentalists, eager developers, hard-bargaining politicians: they're all here, skillfully brought to life in Brad Edmondson's fast-paced narrative. A Wild Idea is a fascinating, behind-the-scenes look at one of twentieth-century America's most far-reaching regional conservation success stories."

- Adam Hochschild, author of Rebel Cinderella

"The creation of the Adirondack Park Agency was a critical moment in the history of American land-use policy. Brad Edmondson interviewed all the surviving players and reveals?with drama and rich detail?who got it done and who resisted. A Wild Idea is necessary reading."

- Philip Terrie, author of Contested Terrain

"Brad Edmondson's history of public interests and private lands in the Adirondack region is an amazing read. A Wild Idea uses personal interviews wiith many of the key players to help us appreciate how the park came to be."

- Betsy Lowe, Founder, The Wild Center

"Edmondson has told his complicated story well. He writes clearly, shows a grasp of broad swaths of information and opinion, and capably explains how the various players evolved in their thinking. A Wild Idea merits the attention of everyone deeply interested in the Adirondack region."

- Adirondack Daily Enterprise

"Brad Edmondson's thoroughly researched book details the difficult process behind the enactment of this law."

- Albany Times Union

"Brad Edmondson, the author of A Wild Idea, published to coincide with the anniversary of Governor Nelson Rockefeller's signing of the APA bill on June 25, 1971, reminds us how broadly popular environmentalism was in the early 70s, unifying a nation still fractured along generational, cultural and political fault lines."

- The Lake George Mirror

"A Wild Idea is essential reading for anyone interested in how human beings can coexist in reasonable harmony with our natural world."

- Adirondack Explorer

"Much of the journalistic-style narrative reported in A Wild Idea is derived from Edmondson's more than five dozen interviews with people who, in one way or another, were first-hand participants in the APA's founding. While the author's sympathies are clearly aligned with the APA and its supporters, his text offers a fair, measured treatment of the arguments, reasoning, and passions of opponents."

- New York-Pennsylvania Collector

"A Wild Idea is an important and timely intervention in Adirondack historiography as well as a helpful addition, particularly in its methodology, to the study of the American wilderness movement and the history of regional planning."

- New York History

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