The book | Crown Jewel Wilderness: Creating North Cascades National Park

Crown Jewel Wilderness cover imageWhy the North Cascades?

The North Cascades first exerted their pull on me when I was looking for a case study in graduate school. The more I read about how this unique, wilderness national park, the more I wanted to know. I was surprised that while I often saw shelves of books about Mount Rainier and Olympic national parks, there were few books about North Cascades National Park, and none about how it came to be. After an academic advisor encouraged me to write a book about the North Cascades, I spent several years in archives and library basements, going through box after box of materials. Ultimately, the book took about six years of full-time work to research and write, stretched across 15 years of my life.

What it is about the North Cascades that makes for such a good story? Well, for one thing, it’s a political thriller. Sure, we know the ending — or do we? The bill that created North Cascades National Park actually created several other types of public lands areas too, including more than a half-million acres of statutory wilderness and two national recreation areas. The North Cascades National Park Act was a careful compromise, constructed after ten years of wrangling over who should manage the North Cascades and for what purposes. That wrangling involved two presidents, two governors, multiple congresspeople and federal officials, cabinet secretaries, resource and recreation industry representatives, and tens of thousands of citizens.

“A tonic…offers timeless lessons in astute citizen activism. …Danner never allows the dance of legislation to get dull.” – Joel Connelly,

From geographic isolation to the vanguard of the wilderness movement

Efforts to establish a park in the North Cascades began as early as 1892. Geographic isolation shielded the range from extensive resource extraction and development and made it an attractive destination to growing numbers of outdoors enthusiasts. After World War II, as economic affluence sparked national interest in wilderness preservation, some people grew concerned about the impact of harvesting timber to meet escalating postwar housing demand. They didn’t want to hike through clearcuts on their way to alpine high country. These midcentury conservationists demanded more public lands be set aside for wilderness and recreation, particularly forested river valleys that were vulnerable to logging.

“Captivating from the start…compelling.” — Molly Steere, Wenatchee Outdoors

Concerned about the National Park Service’s policy favoring development for tourism and the US Forest Service’s policy promoting logging in the national forests, conservationists leveraged changing political conditions and the evolving environmental values of the natural resource agencies to achieve the goal of permanent wilderness protection in the North Cascades. Their grassroots activism became increasingly sophisticated, eventually leading to the compromise that resulted in the 1968 creation of Washington’s magnificent third national park. The North Cascades became a touchstone issue for the wilderness movement and its patchwork quilt of land designations is a direct result.

“With clarity and insight, Danner tells a very complicated story of conservation politics. …excellent.” — John Miles, National Parks Traveler

Remote, rugged, and spectacularly majestic North Cascades are one of the Pacific Northwest’s crown jewels: a combination of national park, national forest, wilderness, and national recreation areas. This book is the first full-length account chronicling its creation, just in time for the park’s 50th anniversary in 2018.

“This is an uplifting story for our times. It is not only scholarly, it is inspiring.” — Mike McCloskey, former executive director, Sierra Club, and author of Conserving Oregon’s Environment: Breakthroughs that Made History

Public lands issues are again in the headlines, and the North Cascades narrative offers lessons and insight into reconciling different, often conflicting, environmental values in a viable way. Fifty years after the park’s creation, the story is more relevant than ever.

Get the book, meet the author

  • Order a signed, personalized copy! I’ll sign and inscribe for you, and my fabulous local brick-and-mortar indie bookstore, Browsers Bookshop, will ship direct wherever you like.
  • Also available from Washington State University Press, at your local indie bookstore, and from the usual online suspects, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
  • I’d love to talk about the North Cascades and my book at your bookstore, meeting, or event. Learn more here.

More praise

“I highly recommend Crown Jewel Wilderness for national park nerds, public land advocates, and historians alike.” — Sara Beth Davis,

“An engaging history of the movement to create North Cascades National Park… The story is not as well-known as it deserves to be.” — Chris Johnson, historian, National Park Service, Pacific West Regional Office, Seattle

“Lauren Danner’s engaging treatise on the North Cascade Mountain Range provides a window into the history of federal land management and its impact on the West in the twentieth century….A highly readable book for those interested in how America’s federal landscape is shaped.” — Lincoln Bramwell, PhD, Chief Historian, United States Forest Service