This study illustrates how the isolation and perceived worthlessness of the Great Basin’s West Desert led the military and livestock industry to create a sacrificial landscape. In focusing on the material activities of these two groups, this study also explores vital yet largely neglected issues regarding the tensions between the defense industry, economic prosperity, and ecological health, revealing the largely unacknowledged social and ecological costs of maintaining national security. The narrative traces the nineteenth-century rise of the sheep industry, growing friction between pastoral and national security landscapes in the mid twentieth century, and the social and environmental consequences of Army weapons testing programs during World War II and the Cold War. In focusing on Western settlement and early economic development, as well as the critical period during and after WWII, this study offers an extended view into North Americans’ largely dysfunctional relationship to arid lands.
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