||"Every American has a landed inheritance. It is the public domain--land owned and administered by the federal government and held in trust for the people of the United States, all of the people of the United States. Created in the years preceding and following the Revolutionary War and enlarged as America spread west from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean, this national legacy at its greatest included more than two billion acres of land. Today [as of 1975], after two centuries of confusion, mismanagement, corruption, and abuse, 453 million acres still remain--an inheritance rich in wilderness values and natural resources--and still victimized by misunderstanding and neglect. For the first time in a single book, the whole story of the public domain is told in a narrative as timely as it is enlivened by history--from the land speculations of George Washington and his contemporaries to the real-estate boondoggles of today; from the pre-emption movement of the 1830s to the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934, from the 90 million acres given away to railroads in the 1860s and 1870s to the millions of acres now being maimed by dune buggies, trail bikes, and other off-road vehicles; from the cynical distortion of such well-intentioned land laws as the Homestead Act of 1862 to the curious grazing practices of modern stockmen; from nineteenth-century entrepreneurs, who mortgaged the public domain in the name of greed to twentieth-century engineers who would pockmark it with strip mines in the name of energy; from the creation of the national forest system in the 1890s to land-reform legislation under consideration by Congress in the spring of 1975. Written by historian and environmental writer T. H. Watkins, based on more than twenty years of research and investigation by conservationist Charles S. Watson, Jr., and illustrated with more than 70 pages of historical and modern photographs, [this book] places the past at the service of the present, and in the process illuminates a nearly unknown part of the American landscape. Above all, this book makes it clear that if we allow history to repeat itself, if we do not move soon to give the public domain the first intelligent management program it has ever known, we will have squandered the largest part of what we have left to give to those who must follow us."--Dust jacket. Part one: The inheritance. Perplexities and profit ; So sublime in principle ; The great barbecue ; Every mountain shall be made low ; Action, reaction, and revolution ; Two-gun Desmond and the paradox factor -- Part two: The inheritors. Foxes and grapes ; The pastures of hell ; Chitty-chitty, va-room, va-room ; The anatomy of crunch ; Once upon an arrow -- Appendices: A chronology of major public land laws ; A wilderness index.