I am currently working on two book-length studies of conservation, Congress, and the creation of the western federal domain.
Forty-Seven Percent of the West: Congress and Conservation during the Long Progressive Era
Although there are many studies of the Progressive conservation era, often with considerable sophistication, this work focuses almost exclusively on charismatic administrators and non-governmental advocates. Almost no attention has been paid to the sausage-making processes by which Congress turned bills into law. The role of Congress in federal conservation history has been an afterthought, usually reduced to either a facilitator or obstacle of conservationist visions. Forty-Seven Percent rectifies this by framing Congress as a separate and equal actor. The House and Senate possessed immense agency in shaping federal policy, and they developed a distinct interest in federal conservation. By tracing their agendas and actions, we gain a fuller perspective on the raison d'être for reserving 47 percent of the American West and the substance of a set of federal laws that Americans still live with. Congress imagined a significantly different role for federal agencies than what administrators and advocates proposed, and Forty-Seven Percent tells this story.
Voice of the West: Colorado's Ed Taylor and the Creation of Modern America
Taylor is known for two bills that shaped the development of the American West, the Stock Raising Homestead Act of 1916 and the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934, but he actually passed hundreds of laws in his career, institutionalized western water doctrines, managed part of a presidential campaign, ran the House floor in 1935, and chaired the Appropriations Committee from 1937 to 1941. Before that Taylor had been a state senator for twelve years, passing more constitutional reforms than any legislator in Colorado history. Before that he had refereed the first water adjudications in the Colorado River basin. Before that he had been class president at the University of Michigan, a high school principal, and a cattle hand. Ed Taylor lived a long and interesting life, but it is his legacy in dams, reclamation projects, conservation debates, and the vast holdings of the Bureau of Land Management that still matter to historians of the environment and the modern American West.