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Roads in the Wilderness: Conflict in Canyon Country

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Roads in the Wilderness: Conflict in Canyon Country
Author Jedediah S. Rogers
Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2013

Roads in the Wilderness: Conflict in Canyon Country

Reviewer Brian Q. Cannon

In this superb, award-winning study, Jedediah S. Rogers, state historian and co-managing editor of the Utah Historical Quarterly, traces the history of conflicts over roads in Utah's backcountry. This book is a must-read for anyone who identifies with and frequents southern Utah's rugged canyonlands.

While roads facilitate travel and commerce, Rogers plumbs their cultural significance as "expressions of ideology" (6). Masterfully he demonstrates that roads are "objects of considerable social and political significance that represent a way of life and livelihood" (134). Adherents to traditional, utilitarian views of the land often celebrate roads because they facilitate economic enterprises. Conversely, some who value wild land primarily as a source of spiritual renewal tend to regard backcountry roads and the traffic they enable as unwelcome intrusions. Many western historians have explored the tension between utilitarian and preservationist worldviews, which are often described as a clash between Old Western attitudes and the New Western sensibilities, but Rogers is one of the few to examine this polarity primarily through the lens of roads. Although he focuses on Utah, his case studies indirectly illuminate controversies over public land usage throughout the West.