American Zion 08.20.19 cover only.jpg

March 2020| Nonfiction | 978-1-948814-14-0| 250 pp | $18.95

AMERICAN ZION: Cliven Bundy, God & Public Lands in the West

by Betsy Gaines Quammen



What happens when members of an American religion—one built in the nineteenth century on personal prophecy and land proprietorship—assert possession over western federal lands, armed with guns and a certainty that God wants them to go to war? American Zion is the story of the ongoing feud between Mormon ranching family the Bundys, the federal government, and the American public. Historian Betsy Gaines Quammen examines the roots of the Bundys’ cowboy confrontations, and how history has shaped an often-dangerous mindset which today feeds the militia movement and threatens public lands, wild species, and American heritage.




is a historian and conservationist. She received a doctorate in Environmental History from Montana State University in 2017, her dissertation focusing on Mormon settlement and public land conflicts. She has studied various religious traditions over the years, with particular attention to how cultures view landscape and wildlife. The rural American west, pastoral communities of northern Mongolia, and the grasslands of East Africa have been her main areas of interest. After college in Colorado, caretaking for a bed and breakfast in Mosier, Oregon, and serving breakfasts at a café in Kanab, Utah, Betsy has settled in Bozeman, Montana,where she now lives with her husband, writer David Quammen, two huge dogs, an overweight cat, and a pretty big python named Boots.

author website



“Betsy Gaines Quammen has taken a deep, fascinating dive into a uniquely American brand of religious zealotry that poses a grave threat to our national parks, wilderness areas, wildlife sanctuaries, and other public lands. American Zion provides essential background for anyone concerned about the future of open space in the western United States. It also happens to be a delight to read.”
JON KRAKAUER, author of Under the Banner of Heaven


A magnificent portrait of complexity, interrogating the collision between frontier thinking and the rising consciousness toward the climate crisis on public lands. Brilliant and electrifying . . . Gaines Quammen’s voice is bright, engaging, and smart. She listens. She is fair. But she is not seduced by cowboy mythology. Her vision calls for an ecological wisdom that can govern our communities, both human and wild, with reverence and respect.”



“A creative, deeply thoughtful work on the origins, dynamics, and consequences of

the Bundy legacy.”
author of Roads in the Wilderness


“I find the author’s sense of the tribal perspectives spot on and sensitive. I enjoyed American Zion immensely—Betsy is a great storyteller!”
 WALTER FLEMING, department head and professor of Native American Studies,

Montana State University


“Well-researched and compelling . . . required reading for anyone seeking to understand the complicated contemporary American West. Gaines Quammen is a natural storyteller.”
Country Bookshelf

“An empathetic and clear-eyed account of the intersections of faith, conservation, and Native rights in the skirmishes over Western public lands.”
 ANDREA AVANTAGGIO, Maria's Bookshop


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