Regulating Off-Road: The California Desert and Collaborative Environmentalism

Keith Makoto Woodhouse*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Historians often understand the 1970s and 1980s in terms of a declining New Deal order, in which an antistatist right as well as a conflicted relationship between public interest movements and administrative authorities undermined the notion of an effective federal government. Nowhere was the erosion of federal administration seemingly more apparent than in the West. An examination of the regulation of off-road racing in the California desert, focusing on everyday administration rather than on elections and lawsuits, reveals how federal agencies actually worked more collaboratively and productively with different interest groups than familiar narratives about these polarized decades would suggest. Contrary to depictions of federal agencies as administrating from afar, and of environmental organizations as overly litigious and out of touch, regulatory work in the California desert happened locally and through relationships shaped by new laws such as the National Environmental Policy Act.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)321-343
Number of pages23
JournalModern American History
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2019


  • Nature and Environment
  • Policymaking
  • Politics and Government
  • Post-1945
  • West

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History


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