Cliven Bundy, God & Public Lands in the West
by BETSY GAINES QUAMMEN
"A fascinating primer on the twisted and nefarious legacy of theology, entitlement, conquest, and patriarchy in the American West."
—FLORENCE WILLIAMS, author of The Nature Fix
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.
March 2020| Nonfiction | 978-1-948814-14-0| 370 pp | $18.95
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
BETSY GAINES QUAMMEN 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.
PRAISE FOR AMERICAN ZION
"Gaines Quammen uses science, broadminded inquiry, and historical records to capture all aspects of the movement to rescind the laws creating public lands. She also offers hope for the future of precious Southwestern landscapes.”
"A literate reminder that it is difficult to fully appreciate the struggle over public lands in the West without understanding its ties to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."
“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
“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.”
— TERRY TEMPEST WILLIAMS, author of Erosion
“This book is like a skeleton key, unlocking so many complicated, and largely unquestioned, myths of the West.”
—ANNE HELEN PETERSEN, BuzzFeed News
“A creative, deeply thoughtful work on the origins, dynamics, and consequences of
the Bundy legacy.”
— JEDEDIAH ROGERS, author of Roads in the Wilderness
"What J. D. Vance did with Hillbilly Elegy to explain small-town Appalachian angst, Gaines Quammen has done with American Zion to help people understand the long and convoluted issues in the American West."
—THANE MAYNARD, co-author with Jane Goodall of Hope for Animals and Their World
“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
“A fascinating primer on the twisted and nefarious legacy of theology, entitlement, conquest, and patriarchy in the American West. Gaines Quammen offers indispensable reading for anyone who cares about the fate of the nation’s public lands.”
—FLORENCE WILLIAMS, author of The Nature Fix
“American Zion is a thorough and thoughtful analysis of the challenges we face in managing our public lands and an argument for why these lands should remain in public hands.”
—JAMES LYONS, former deputy assistant secretary, US Department of the Interior
“Historian Betsy Gaines Quammen recounts the history of Mormons in America to help us understand how a painful abyss has formed between some of that religion's believers and management of national public lands in southern Arizona, Oregon, and Utah. Such understanding is essential for those of us working to cross that divide.”
—MARY O’BRIEN, author of Making Better Environmental Decisions
“Well-researched and compelling . . . required reading for anyone seeking to understand the complicated contemporary American West. Gaines Quammen is a natural storyteller.”
— ARIANA PALIOBAGIS, 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
ALSO BY THE AUTHOR
TRUE WEST: Myth and Mending on the Far Side of America
From the Northern Rockies to the Southwest deserts, Betsy Gaines Quammen explores how myths shape our identities, heighten polarizations, and fracture our shared understanding of the world around us. As she investigates the origins and effects of myths of the American West, Gaines Quammen travels through small towns and big cities, engaging people and building relationships at every stop. Misperceptions about land, politics, liberty, and self-determination threaten the well-being of people and communities across the country, and Gaines Quammen interrogates it all as she seeks to reconcile the anger and misunderstandings that continue to be fueled by the West’s enduring myths and complex history. Whether sitting down with a militia member seeking to protect his rural Utah town from Antifa or talking with grassroots organizers working across ideological divides, Gaines Quammen brings to life connections and contradictions that shape our politics and our lives far beyond the West.
“Betsy Gaines Quammen has an uncanny ability to boldly cross any divide, literal or metaphorical, with grace and an intention to learn and understand, building rapport and inviting conversation, which we as humans so desperately need.”
—JEN HILLEBRANDT, Townie Books