Date of this Version



Sarah E. Light


public lands, national parks, natural resource management, conservation, Theodore Roosevelt, preservation, commodification, Bears Ears National Monument, Malheur National Wildlife Refuge


What is the purpose of America’s public lands? By first reviewing the rise of different conceptions of public lands over the course of American history, then discussing more modern controversies involving the Bears Ears National Monument and the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, it becomes clear that there are ultimately three possible solutions: commodification, transcendentalism / preservation, or conservationism. Ultimately, taking a philosophical approach by way of Plato’s definition of “the good life,” this thesis concludes that conservationism is the best conception of the purpose of public lands, because it accommodates for both consumptiveand non-consumptive uses. Accordingly, federal land managers are called upon to begin adhering to conservationist practices in regard to America’s public lands.



Date Posted: 17 June 2019


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