Adam M. Sowards presents 'Making America's Public Lands' and 'An Open Pit Visible from the Moon'

What makes wilderness wild? What does America have to do with it?


Third Place Books welcomes local environmental historian Adam M. Sowards to our Lake Forest Park store! Sowards will be discussing two of his investigative works of nonfiction, Making America's Public Lands: The Contested History of Conservation on Federal Lands  and An Open Pit Visible from the Moon: The Wilderness Act and the Fight to Protect Miners Ridge and the Public InterestThis event is free and open to the public. Registration is required in advance.

Copies of Making America's Public Lands and An Open Pit Visible from the Moon will be available for purchase at the store. This event will include a public signing and time for audience Q&A. Sustain our author series by purchasing a copy of the featured book!

Click here for more about our COVID-19 policies for in-person events.

Having trouble accessing Eventbrite? Click here.


Tickets available now

for this in-person event


About Making America's Public Lands. . .

In the United States, the federal government owns more than a quarter of the nation's landscape—nearly 640 million acres; or more than a million square miles, which, if consolidated, would make it the tenth largest nation on earth. Primarily managed by four federal agencies—the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service—American public lands have been central to developing the American economy, state, and identity. The history of these lands intersects with critical components of the American past—namely nature, politics, and economics. From the beginning, the concept of "public" has been the subject of controversy, from visions of homesteaders realizing the ideal of the Jeffersonian republic to western ranchers who use the open range to promote a free enterprise system, to wilderness activists who see these lands as wild places, free from human encumbrance.

Environmental historian Adam Sowards synthesizes public lands history from the beginning of the republic to recent controversies. Since public lands are located everywhere, including iconic national parks like Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon, Americans at large have a stake in these lands. They are, after all, ours. In a real sense, this book is for those citizens who camp in the national forests, drive through the national parks, or admire distant wilderness landscapes. These readers will gain a greater appreciation for the long and complex history of the range of these places.


About An Open Pit Visible from the Moon. . .

Situated among the North Cascade Mountains of Washington State, in the Glacier Peak Wilderness Area, Miners Ridge contains vast quantities of copper. Kennecott Copper Corporation's plan to develop an open-pit mine there was, when announced in 1966, the first test of the mining provision of the Wilderness Act passed by Congress in 1964. The battle over the proposed "Open Pit, Big Enough to Be Seen from the Moon," as activists called it, drew the attention of both local and national conservationists, who vowed to stop the desecration of one of the West's most scenic places. Kennecott Copper had the full force of the law and mining industry behind it in asserting its extractive rights. Meanwhile the U.S. Forest Service was determined to defend its authority to manage wilderness.

An Open Pit Visible from the Moon tells the story of this historic struggle to define the contours of the Wilderness Act—its possibilities and limits. Combining rigorous analysis and deft storytelling, Adam M. Sowards re-creates the contest between Kennecott and its shareholders on one hand and activists on the other, intent on maintaining wilderness as a place immune to the calculus of profit. A host of actors cross these pages—from cabinet secretaries and a Supreme Court justice to local doctors and college students—all contributing to a drama that made Miners Ridge a cause célèbre for the nation's wilderness movement. As locals testified at public hearings and writers penned profiles in the nation's magazines and newspapers, the volatile political economy of copper proved equally influential in frustrating Kennecott's plans.

No law or court ruling could keep Kennecott from mining copper, but the pit was never dug. Identifying the contingent factors and forces that converged and coalesced in this case, Sowards's narrative recalls a critical moment in the struggle over the nation's wild places, even as it puts the unpredictability of history on full display.

Adam M. Sowards is an award-winning environmental historian, writer, and former professor. His writing explores themes of democracy and nature across time. A lifelong Northwesterner, he now writes from Skagit County, Washington. 

Want a signed edition of the featured book, but can't make it to the event? Order through our website or over the phone, and write your request for a signature or personalization in the comments field at checkout. Please call the hosting store if you're placing your order within 24 hours of the event.

Third Place Books Events Code of Conduct: Third Place Books is committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of event attendees and guest authors, during both online and in-store events. By registering for this event, you are agreeing to refrain from engaging in inappropriate behavior and harassment of any kind throughout the course of this event (i.e. racial slurs, profanity, hate speech, spam comments, etc.). Please note that any participants who engage in inappropriate behavior or harassment of any kind will be immediately ejected from the event.

For media inquiries, access inquiries, or questions about our Covid-19 policies, please email or call our Lake Forest Park store at (206) 366-3311.