This history of the first large land area to be set aside for preservation and public use by Congress follows Yosemite from its early Native American inhabitants, exploration, establishment as a national park in 1890, and through such controversial developments as Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, the Badger Pass Ski Area, the so-called Firefall, and the infamous Stoneman Meadow riot of 1970. The story of Yosemite has proved to be a microcosm of the debate within the National Park Service itself over preservation versus access, development of resources versus conservation of them. “Yosemite,” Runte contends, “remains central to these and many other debates, suggesting its continuing importance as a field of investigation into the management of the national park system at large.”
An internationally recognized expert on America's national parks, Alfred Runte is based in Seattle, Washington. He was recently an adviser to the Ken Burns PBS documentary The National Parks: America's Best Idea and appeared in all six episodes of the Emmy Award-winning series. Runte has also been a guest on Nightline, The Today Show, 48 Hours, the History and Travel channels, and speaks frequently in public forums on the need to protect our parks. His other books include Allies of the Earth: Railroads and the Soul of Preservation, and Trains of Discovery: Railroads and the Legacy of Our National Parks, now in its fifth edition. In April 2011, Runte was elected to membership in the College of Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame at Illinois State University (his master's degree institution) "in recognition of exemplary achievement" as a teacher and public scholar. He also holds a B.A. from the State University of New York at Binghamton and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Barbara.