This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Private Paths to Protecting Places: The Creation of a Conservation Infrastructure in the American South Since 1889




Eklund, Christopher

Type of Degree





This dissertation investigates changes in the ways individuals protected private land in the twentieth century American South. In contrast with iconic parks like Yellowstone or the heavily industrialized lands of the Northeast, most land in the American South was broadly populated, privately owned, and overwhelmingly rural. In this distinct American region, private initiatives to protect land began much earlier than commonly assumed and the motivation remained strong from the late nineteenth century to the present. The methods for protecting lands changed dramatically over the course of the twentieth century, and the twentieth century witnessed a correlation between the successes of the environmental movement and a higher likelihood of private efforts to protect land as the public’s ecological knowledge grew. Ultimately, the phenomenal twentieth century increase in private conservation reflects a trend away from government-managed parks while also highlighting a growing public interest in protecting lands from development. These gradual alterations in the ways Americans protected their land demonstrates sweeping changes in American culture, the role of the state in society, and citizens’ engagement with the environment.