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Wallace Stegner Center Lecture – Leisl Carr Childers

February 23, 2017 @ 12:15 pm - 1:15 pm

The Size of the Risk: Histories of Multiple Use in the Great Basin

12:15 p.m. – 1:15 p.m., S.J. Quinney College of Law Moot Courtroom (Level 6)

This event will be streamed live  and archived on the S.J. Quinney College of Law YouTube Channel »

Lecture – What happens when a place is deemed worthless for anything except the lowest form of economic activity? What happens when the government, whose job is to protect its citizens, subjects them to harm? What happens when there are so many competing interests, any form of decision-making grinds to a halt? And what happens when you are the one that has to live with the consequences of these problems? Historian Leisl Carr Childers examines these questions and more in her history of the multiple use concept in public lands management in the Great Basin. From Cliven Bundy to Wild Horse Annie, off-roading to atomic testing, she argues that the overlap of these uses on public lands and the inherent conflicts they created necessitated a cost that ultimately has harmed the environment and the people who depended upon the region for their livelihoods.

About Childers’ book – The Great Basin, a stark and beautiful desert filled with sagebrush deserts and mountain ranges, is the epicenter for public lands conflicts. Arising out of the multiple, often incompatible uses created throughout the twentieth century, these struggles reveal the tension inherent within the multiple use concept, a management philosophy that promises equitable access to the region’s resources and economic gain to those who live there.

Multiple use was originally conceived as a way to legitimize the historical use of public lands for grazing without precluding future uses, such as outdoor recreation, weapons development, and wildlife management. It was applied to the Great Basin to bring the region, once seen as worthless, into the national economic fold. Land managers, ranchers, mining interests, wilderness and wildlife advocates, outdoor recreationists, and even the military adopted this ideology to accommodate, promote, and sanction a multitude of activities on public lands, particularly those overseen by the Bureau of Land Management. Some of these uses are locally driven and others are nationally mandated, but all have exacted a cost from the region’s human and natural environment.

In The Size of the Risk, Leisl Carr Childers shows how different constituencies worked to fill the presumed “empty space” of the Great Basin with a variety of land-use regimes that overlapped, conflicted, and ultimately harmed the environment and the people who depended on the region for their livelihoods. She looks at the conflicts that arose from the intersection of an ever-increasing number of activities, such as nuclear testing and wild horse preservation, and how Great Basin residents have navigated these conflicts.

Carr Childers’s study of multiple use in the Great Basin highlights the complex interplay between the state, society, and the environment, allowing us to better understand the ongoing reality of living in the American West.

Leisl Carr Childers, Assistant Professor, Public History and the American West, University of Northern Iowa
Leisl Carr Childers specializes in combining public history projects and academic publication on the American West and in environmental history. Her most recent works include: The Size of the Risk: Histories of Multiple Use in the Great Basin (University of Oklahoma Press, 2015); “The Angry West: Understanding the Sagebrush Rebellion in Rural Nevada,” in Bridging the Distance: Common Issues in the Rural West (University of Utah Press, 2015); and “Incident at Galisteo: The 1955 Teapot Series and the Mental Landscape of Contamination,” Proving Grounds: Weapons Testing, Militarized Landscapes, and the Environmental Consequences of American Empire (University of Washington Press, 2015).

1 hour of CLE. Lunch provided.
No registration required.  Free and open to the public.

For questions about this event contact Kris (801) 585-3440.

Paid parking is available at the Rice-Eccles Stadium using the pay-by-phone app. We encourage you to use public transportation to our events. Take TRAX University line to the Stadium stop and walk a half block north. For other public transit options use UTA’s Trip Planner. The law school is on the Red Route for the University’s free campus shuttles (College of Law stop).

Funding provided by the Cultural Vision Fund.



February 23, 2017
12:15 pm - 1:15 pm
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Wallace Stegner Center


S. J. Quinney College of Law
383 South University St
Salt Lake City, UT 84112 United States
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