Mark Fiege is the Wallace Stegner Chair in Western American Studies at Montana State University and the author of The Republic of Nature: An Environmental History of the United States (2012) and Irrigated Eden: The Making of an Agricultural Landscape in the American West (1999), which received the Forest History Society's Charles A. Weyerhaeuser Book Award. His article "The Weedy West," published in the Western Historical Quarterly (2005), won several honors, including the American Society for Environmental History's Alice Hamilton Prize. Prior to moving to Montana State, he was a founding member of the Public Lands History Center at Colorado State University and a participant in its Parks as Portals to Learning, a research and learning program based on environmental history that brings together faculty, students, and resource managers at Rocky Mountain National Park. His current research includes a book on conservation in the national parks.
Henry David Thoreau, Yellowstone National Park, and the Dust Bowl are easily understood as important topics in American environmental history. Yet, as this lecture demonstrates, nothing in the history of the United States, not even the subjects that define the canonical textbook account of the nation’s past, occurred outside the natural world. The American Revolution, the life of Abraham Lincoln, and the Brown v. Board of Education civil rights case in Topeka, Kansas are among the standard American history events that also can be understood as episodes in environmental history.