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Big SurThe Making of a Prized California Landscape$
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Shelley Alden Brooks

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780520294417

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520294417.001.0001

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The Battle for Big Sur; or, Debating the National Environmental Ethic

The Battle for Big Sur; or, Debating the National Environmental Ethic

(p.131) Six The Battle for Big Sur; or, Debating the National Environmental Ethic
Big Sur

Shelley Alden Brooks

University of California Press

At the end of the 1970s, Carmel resident Ansel Adams turned his considerable influence toward securing federal protection for the Big Sur coastline. Adams endeavored to secure the designation of a Big Sur National Seashore while Democrats still controlled Congress and the White House, but he had an uphill battle during the conservative ascendancy that brought Ronald Reagan into the White House at a time when the nation’s faltering economy challenged bipartisan support for environmental protection. Adams also misread the vehemence with which locals guarded their right to steward the land and live without a federal landlord. Chapter 6 examines the battle over Big Sur as Adams, U.S. congressmen and senators, the Wilderness Society, Monterey County officials, and Big Sur residents debated the cultural, political, and environmental borders of this prized landscape. The chapter argues that like other debates of the era, the question of management authority for Big Sur became value-laden as issues of constitutional rights, privilege, and spirituality played key roles in shaping opinions on the appropriate relationship between people and nature. A place as popular as Yosemite could not escape such national attention, but remarkably, Big Sur’s small number of residents could harness the conservative turn to argue successfully for local management of a national treasure.

Keywords:   Ansel Adams, Ronald Reagan, federal landlord, environmental, Wilderness Society, constitutional rights, Yosemite, Big Sur

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