A controversial, informed, and important look at the protection and management of America’s national parks

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Introduction     1

1. Quiet Genesis     5
2. An Ideal in Search of Itself      17
3. The Ideal in Practice     27
4. Making a Choice     47
5. The Compromise Called For     61
6. The Parks as They Ought to Be     79
7. "At the Core of All This Wilderness and Luxury"     91
8. Conclusion     103

Appendix: A Policy Statement: The Meaning of National Parks Today     111

Notes     115

Bibliographic Notes     139

Index     149


Beloved by academic and general readers alike, Mountains Without Handrails, Joseph L. Sax’s thought-provoking treatise on America’s national parks, remains as relevant today as when first published in 1980. Focusing on the long-standing and bitter battles over recreational use of our parklands, Sax proposes a novel scheme for the protection and management of America's national parks. Drawing upon still controversial disputes—Yosemite National Park, the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, and the Disney plan for California's Mineral King Valley—Sax boldly unites the rich and diverse tradition of nature writing into a coherent thesis that speaks directly to the dilemma of the parks.
In a new foreword, environmental law scholar Holly Doremus articulates this book’s enduring importance and reflects on what Sax, her former teacher, might have thought about the encroachment of technology into natural spaces, the impact of social media, and growing threats from climate change. At this moment of great uncertainty for the national parks, Mountains Without Handrails should be read (and re-read) by anyone with a stake in America’s natural spaces.

Joseph L. Sax was a Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley. Previously, he was the counselor to the Secretary of the Interior and Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School.
Holly Doremus is Professor of Environmental Regulation and Co-faculty Director of the Center for Law, Energy & the Environment at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.