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.
“Rarely in academia, and almost never in the leisure field, is such a fine mind so engagingly and systematically turned to such an invigorating discussion. . . Sax has advanced and clarified preservationist thought by articulating a philosophy that provides both a set of goals and a guide to reasonable compromises.”
“The book is an intense, richly documented piece that can stand on its own as a comprehensive, imaginative thesis of resource philosophy. . . There are powerful ideas in this book.”
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
Bibliographic Notes 139