Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Arts in History



Major Advisor

Lisa Brady, Ph.D.


Sandra Schackel, Ph.D.


Barton Barbour, Ph.D.


Idahoans' unique and contradictory history of conservation politics reveals deep tensions between expectations of individual water rights, a shared regard for natural beauty, and a deep-seated fear of government intervention. From its earliest settlers to its Sagebrush Rebels to its modern day miners and lumber crews, Idaho has teemed with those eager to profit from the state’s natural resources. The post-war interest in recreation and the environmental movement of the 1970s, however, promoted concern and support for preservation in Idaho. Coupled with the Idahoan obsession with water rights, Idaho environmentalism prompted the conservative Republican state to elect environmentally-minded Democrats Cecil Andrus and Frank Church to multiple terms of service. Idaho environmentalism, which has supported wilderness and wild rivers and has stopped proposed high dams and open-pit mining, hinges on water rights. When preservation of nature aligns with preservation of water rights, Idahoans stand firmly together. When nature conservation imperils water rights, they denounce the former. When conservation comes at the price of logging, mining, or real estate interests Idahoans are led by whomever speaks more eloquently to either their sense of moral obligation, or to their fears.