Who Is Minding the Federal Estate? is for anyone interested in improving the condition of our public lands. Fretwell begins by examining the origins of the federal estate, which, though originally intended to be a temporary clearinghouse, now comprises a third of the U.S. landmass. She describes the evolution of laws governing that estate, and of the public conception of wilderness, which was once thought to be abundant and in need of taming, but is now considered to be inviolable and even sacred. In non-technical prose that draws on economic theory and empirical analysis, Fretwell investigates patterns of federal land management and mismanagement. The book closes by offering alternatives that will improve stewardship of the federal estate by freeing public land from the grasp of politicians who come and go in favor of a sustainable, long-term management ethic. These alternatives come unshackled by policies that lead to disasters such as the recent and ongoing epidemic of massive fires sweeping the forests of the West.
If any area of government is in great need of ‘change’ today, it is public land management. It is failing economically and environmentally. Holly Lippke Frertwell offers a valuable diagnosis of public land problems and a set of possible solutions that should be required reading for the Obama administration.
— Robert H. Nelson
School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland