My first book…the product of ten years of research and wandering on the
public lands of the American West…a product of love and affection and anger.

The idea for the title of course comes from Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is
Your Land,” whose lyrics I learned as a schoolkid in the 1980s. Funny
thing is that what was taught to me in school did not include the complete
lyrics. A portion of Guthrie’s original song, perhaps the most important part, was censored. The stanza that never made it to my school, and probably not to many others, was this:

There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me.
The sign was painted, said ‘Private Property.’
But on the backside, it didn’t say nothing.
This land was made for you and me.

You still will have a hard time finding that censored lyric when you hunt around on the godforsaken Internet. So be it. What Guthrie was talking about was land that belonged to everyone — you, me, and all the bastards in between.

As for the image under that vast Western sky of egg-shell blue, well it’s a bulldozer that pulls a naval anchor chain across a stretch of pinyon-juniper forest in Utah, tearing out the roots of the trees, laying waste to the ecosystem…so that money can be made for a privileged few who wear cowboy hats. One of the many examples of “land management” as practiced by the federal government. Multiply this scene by hundreds of millions of acres, imagine the various forms of “management” for the profit of the few, and you might get a sense of the scope of the ecological tragedy unfolding. This land is your land…or perhaps we should amend that to “was.” And the crazy part of it is that green groups who purport to be “environmentalists” are in fact abetting the destruction. Read my book to understand what’s really going on.


From the folks at Viking-Penguin:

A hard-hitting look at the battle now raging over the fate of the public lands in the American West–and a plea for the protection of these last wild places

The public lands of the western United States comprise some 450 million acres of grassland, steppe land, canyons, forests, and mountains. It’s an American commons, and it is under assault as never before.

Journalist Christopher Ketcham has been documenting the confluence of commercial exploitation and governmental misconduct in this region for over a decade. His revelatory book takes the reader on a journey across these last wild places, to see how capitalism is killing our great commons. Ketcham begins in Utah, revealing the environmental destruction caused by unregulated public lands livestock grazing, and exposing rampant malfeasance in the federal land management agencies, who have been compromised by the profit-driven livestock and energy interests they are supposed to regulate. He then turns to the broad effects of those corrupt politics on wildlife. He tracks the Department of Interior’s failure to implement and enforce the Endangered Species Act–including its stark betrayal of protections for the grizzly bear and the sage grouse–and investigates the destructive behavior of U.S. Wildlife Services in their shocking mass slaughter of animals that threaten the livestock industry. Along the way, Ketcham talks with ecologists, biologists, botanists, former government employees, whistleblowers, grassroots environmentalists and other citizens who are fighting to protect the public domain for future generations.

This Land is a colorful muckraking journey–part Edward Abbey, part Upton Sinclair–exposing the rot in American politics that is rapidly leading to the sell-out of our national heritage. The book ends with Ketcham’s vision of ecological restoration for the American West: freeing the trampled, denuded ecosystems from the effects of grazing, enforcing the laws already in place to defend biodiversity, allowing the native species of the West to recover under a fully implemented Endangered Species Act, and establishing vast stretches of public land where there will be no development at all, not even for recreation.

This Land: How cowboys, capitalism, and corruption are ruining the American West