American West •  Environment •  History and Women

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A Woman in the Great Outdoors: Adventures in the National Park Service

Melody Webb

Melody Webb's reflections on her twenty-five-year-long career in the National Park Service is an insider's account of a public bureaucracy. As a woman, she was working in a male-dominated agency; as an idealist, she attempted to champion the wise use of the national parks in a pragmatic political agency.
Webb's career began in Alaska during President Gerald Ford's administration. She helped set up the mechanism that permitted Alaskan Natives to claim up to 2 million acres of federal land to preserve culturally significant areas. Following a dozen years of historic preservation work in Alaska and New Mexico, Webb spent the second half of her tenure in management positions. She served as superintendent at the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park and then as assistant superintendent, in charge of all park operations at Grand Teton National Park. During this period the Park Service was faced with conflicting mandates: there was a growing demand for recreational land use and, at the same time, environmental requirements and tight budgets limited the NPS's options.
Webb's frankness about the day-to-day politics within an institution that many Americans feel should be above politics make this book an eye opener for historians and anyone who has an interest in the National Park System.


Melody Webb received her Ph. D. in history from the University of New Mexico. She is also the author of Yukon: The Last Frontier. She resides in Georgetown, Texas.


"(Melody) Webb's intimate portrayal of day-to-day politics of the National Park System will be an eye-opener to historians and travelers who have enjoyed the scenic beauty of America's 'crown jewels.'"


Newsletter of the Employees and Alumni Association of the National Park Service

"Melody Webb has successfully melded history and memoir into a personal and thoughtful analysis of the National Park Service. . . . This book goes the distance in describing the mission and professionalism. It should be required reading in every public history course."


Montana the Magazine of Western History

" A Woman in the Great Outdoors does a superb job documenting these turbulent years, as well as presenting a young pioneering woman's adventures in an outdoor world that was poised on the brink of tremendous metamorphosis."


Roundup Magazine

"Anyone who cherishes our National Parks should read Melody Webb's 'warts and all' depiction of life in the NPS. She cuts through myths and reveals that for careerists the difficulties and the disappointments are many. But, what a wonderful calling!"


Journal of Arizona History

"Webb gives an astute and intriguing look at the national parks. . . . After you finish (this) book you will never again be able to look at park rangers as merely interpreters of what we are looking at. They are dedicated professionals of the highest quality and deserve our deepest respect and gratitude."


The Texas Ranger Dispatch Magazine

"I found Webb's book fascinating and learned a great deal about the National Park Service and how it works. She writes well and keeps her story moving. I think she suceeded in both humanizing the institution and in broadening the personal perspective about a topic about which most of us know very little."


Southwestern American Literature

"Webb's candidness in detailing the conflicts within the park system and between preservationists and recreationalists makes the book a must for anyone interested in National Parks and in the service's abiliy to uphold its mission to conserve and at the same time to provide for the enjoyment of all."


West Texas Historical Association

" A Woman in the Great Outdoors is the first memoir of a woman's professional career in the National Park Service. It deserves a prominent place on the bookshelf."


Western Historical Quarterly

6 x 9 in. 288 pages 17 halftones