Earth Sciences - Geography
Within the American West, national forests comprise almost thirty percent of the region's public lands. In many settings, they remain contested landscapes - often caught between competing interests that include natural resource extractive industry, preservation advocates, and a general public that is often deeply divided about how best to utilize these lands. Uncovering how these lands have evolved over time, the forces that have contributed to their evolution, and the unique geographies that have resulted is critical to understanding the past, present, and future of Western public landscapes and ecologies. This research, set in the Northern Rockies of Montana (specifically, the Rocky Mountain Front of the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem), utilizes methodologies of historical geography, environmental history, landscape ecology, and Geographic Information Science to uncover the areal patterns and distributions of landscape features created through federal forest management. It then explores how national forest landscapes are representative of broader economic, political, and cultural trends shaping the United States. Finally, this research investigates the meaning of nature in American society as it can be gleaned through the evolution of United States Forest Service policies and through the creation of a negotiated, hybridized middle landscape on forest service lands. In doing so, it reframes the concept of natural landscapes to include areas complicated by human management.