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Resounds: Betsy Gaines Quammen

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courtesy Betsy Gaines Quammen
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Betsy Gaines Quammen

What happens when members of an American religion, one built in the nineteenth century on personal prophecy and land proprietorship, assert possession over public land with guns and a certainty that God wants them to go to war? A new book by Betsy Gaines Quammen, American Zion: Cliven Bundy, God, and Public Lands in the West, explores an incendiary land-use war launched from Bunkerville, Nevada, an hour’s drive from Las Vegas, by a man named Cliven Bundy and his large Mormon family.

The Bundys’ conflict traces back to when the first Latter-day Saints came west, bringing militant beliefs, legitimate grievances, and certainty of claiming a God-promised homeland called Zion.

Talking to folks in casinos, roadside diners, living rooms, and on horseback, environmental historian Dr. Betsy Gaines Quammen takes the reader on a journey through the New West, one still haunted by white settlement, violence, and an enduring sense of entitlement.

She raises important questions about public lands—the 640 million acres of national parks, monuments, refuges, forests, and wilderness that we as Americans share. By exploring the rights of Native people, the role of the Mormon Church, the legend of the cowboy, the state of public lands and the women and men who depend upon them, Quammen demonstrates that Cliven Bundy’s war, one based on religious zealotry, is contributing to an ongoing lawlessness in the West.

Betsy Gaines Quammen is a historian and conservationist. She received a doctorate in Environmental History from Montana State University in 2017, her dissertation focusing on Mormon settlement and public land conflicts. She has studied various religious traditions over the years, with particular attention to how cultures view landscape and wildlife.

Corby Skinner is an independent marketing professional with an enormous capacity for assessing issues and creating positive, effective messages.
Anna Paige is a poet and educator and co-founder of Billings Area Literary Arts, created from a desire to connect writers to one another and grow the literary community of Billings.