Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. Daniel J. Palazzolo

Second Advisor

Dr. Bill Swinford

Third Advisor

Dr. John T. Whelan


The case of the Wilderness Bill reveals several important insights into the process, policy and politics of wilderness legislation in the late 1950s and early 1960's. The process generally conformed well with the expectations of a strong committee chair model that characterized Congress during the late 1950s and early 1960s. To be sure, the politics involved accommodation of competing interests and was facilitated by a president eager to pass a pro-wilderness bill. Above all, the compromise which ultimately led to the passage of the Wilderness Bill was influenced by the powerful committee chairman of the Interior and Insular Affairs Committee - Wayne Aspinall (D-CO). Indeed, the central lesson of this case study is that a single committee chair, with the support of his committee could use his power to obstruct the legislative process and to prevent a popular bill from passing the House until he was fully satisfied. Thus in the end the effort to protect the wilderness made a small step forward; a major advance was prohibited by Aspinall, who sided with the forces that favored industry and commerce in the western lands.