This Land Is Our Land : How We Lost the Right to Roam and How to Take It Back
by Ilgunas, Ken

1 The Right to Roam
2 The Closing of America
3 A Brief History of Trespassing
4 An Abbreviated Journey Across Europe
5 The Land Americans Once Roamed
6 Why We Need the Right to Roam
7 The Arguments Against Roaming
8 The Right to Roam--How Do We Get There?
9 This Land Is Our Land
Further Reading223(2)

Private property is everywhere. Almost anywhere you walk in the United States, you will spot “No Trespassing” and “Private Property” signs on trees and fence posts. In America, there are more than a billion acres of grassland pasture, cropland, and forest, and miles and miles of coastlines that are mostly closed off to the public. Meanwhile, America’s public lands are threatened by extremist groups and right-wing think tanks who call for our public lands to be sold to the highest bidder and closed off to everyone else. If these groups get their way, public property may become private, precious green spaces may be developed, and the common good may be sacrificed for the benefit of the wealthy few.

Ken Ilgunas, lifelong traveler, hitchhiker, and roamer, takes readers back to the nineteenth century, when Americans were allowed to journey undisturbed across the country. Today, though, America finds itself as an outlier in the Western world as a number of European countries have created sophisticated legal systems that protect landowners and give citizens generous roaming rights to their countries' green spaces.
Inspired by the United States' history of roaming, and taking guidance from present-day Europe, Ilgunas calls into question our entrenched understanding of private property and provocatively proposes something unheard of: opening up American private property for public recreation. He imagines a future in which folks everywhere will have the right to walk safely, explore freely, and roam boldly—from California to the New York island, from the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters.

Ken Ilgunas is an award-winning author, journalist, and backcountry ranger in Alaska. He has hitchhiked ten thousand miles across North America, paddled one thousand miles across Ontario in a birchbark canoe, and walked 1,700 miles across the Great Plains, following the proposed route of the Keystone XL pipeline. Ilgunas has a BA from SUNY Buffalo in history and English, and an MA in liberal studies from Duke University. The author of travel memoirs Walden on Wheels and Trespassing Across America, he is from Wheatfield, New York.

Throughout history, our ancestors traveled by foot, as illustrated in classic novels in which characters walk by fields and woods to nearby villages or far-away cities. In North America, Daniel Boone, Lewis and Clark, and John Muir led the way for many adventurers who explored the frontier. No fences or "no trespassing" signs blocked their ways. In the twenty-first century, modern transportation removes the need to walk, and restrictive American property laws block walkers from traditional trails and open lands. In the U.S., few places other than national parks, beaches, and long-distance hiking trails remain open for lengthy outdoor wandering. According to Ilgunas, most open land should be ours to traverse. He describes the benefits of responsible, open access to land, citing examples of more liberal laws and traditions in European countries and prescribing rules and regulations to reassure land owners. Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy this book. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

Woody Guthrie was singing a truth that we've allowed to sicken and nearly die; it's time to nurse it back to health.An assiduous roamer and backcountry ranger, Ilgunas (Trespassing Across America: One Man's Epic, Never-Done-Before (and Sort of Illegal) Hike Across the Heartland, 2016, etc.) returns with a heavily researched, passionate argument about the need for America to emulate many other countries and allow its citizens to roam across the land, public as well as private. He asserts that roaming was long a part of the American way of life, but we have lost the way. He offers some disturbing statistical evidence—e.g., how few people own most of the private land and how our national parks and monuments are overflowing with visitors. He also notes how our sedentary lifestyle is affecting our health—and our national budget—and he continually reminds us how much better it is elsewhere for roamers; Scotland and Sweden are among his most frequent examples. Ilgu nas populates the text with iconic literary and cultural figures who believed in roaming, from Plato to Rousseau to Thoreau. The author also knows the counterarguments to "free roaming"—e.g., lawsuits against landowners, litter, armed roamers—and he devotes a significant section of the narrative to answering, if not refuting, them all. In a final chapter devoted to how we might accomplish his dream, the author cites the works and words of legal authorities, and he appeals to our better selves—an approach that, unfortunately, does not often bear fruit. "Let's not be so fixated on something as small as individual liberty," he writes, "…when we should be thinking about something far grander and far nobler: the health of the community, the health of the planet, the prosperity of the human race and all our fellow species." Earnest, thoughtful, and alarming in places—an optimistic work that urges America toward a profound cultural shift. Copyright Kirkus 2018 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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