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Planning a New West

The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

Carl Abbott, Sy Adler and Margery Post Abbott

Culture and Environment in the Pacific West

7 × 10 inches. Illustrations. Maps. Index. 224 pages.

1997. ISBN 978-0-87071-392-7. Hardcover, $29.95.

With the recent decline of natural resource industries in the American West, a new economic future has dawned for the region, focused on tourism, service industries, and high technology. Affluent and articulate interests are shaping a New West on the foundations of the Old West, often against the wishes of some local residents. As former timber, farming, and mining landscapes are re-allocated for recreation, tourist facilities, environmental protection, and new residential development, the debate over who gets to shape and speak for the West intensifies. In the Columbia Gorge, the creation of a National Scenic Area in 1986 enjoined differences between the goals and values of the Old and New Wests.

In Planning a New West the authors present a fast-paced account of the creation of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. As the nation's first multi-entity national scenic area — a regional land use planning effort mandated by the federal government in partnership with state and local governments — the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area is a revealing case study that explores what may be the future for protection of historical landscapes in the American West.

Planning a New West explains the political battles over the future of the Gorge, including environmentalist concerns about logging, local property owners' worries about increasing population, and the invasion of windsurfers and other recreationalists. The authors describe the range of viewpoints and the disputes that raged between contending groups trying to shape the legislation. Finally, the book covers the legislation itself and examines what has been accomplished in the ten years since its passage.

Throughout this volume, the authors address a key question: what happens when a coveted landscape becomes a battleground for two legitimate and compelling visions of the American West? In examining the origins and implementations of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Planning a New West reveals a vast experiment in mediating between old and new.

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