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Coastal Sage

Peter Douglas and the Fight to Save California's Shore

Thomas J. Osborne (Author)

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There are moments when we forget how fortunate we are to have the California coast. The state is home to 1,100 miles of uninterrupted coastline defined by long stretches of beach and jagged rocky cliffs. Coastal Sage chronicles the career and accomplishments of Peter Douglas, the longest-serving executive director of the California Coastal Commission. For nearly three decades, Douglas fought to keep the California coast public, prevent overdevelopment, and safeguard habitat. In doing so, Douglas emerged as a leading figure in the contemporary American environmental movement and influenced public conservation efforts across the country. He coauthored California’s foundational laws pertaining to shoreline management and conservation: Proposition 20 and the California Coastal Act. Many of the political battles to save the coast from overdevelopment and secure public access are revealed for the first time in this study of the leader who was at once a visionary, warrior, and coastal sage.
Thomas J. Osborne is Emeritus Professor of History at Santa Ana College, where he received the inaugural Distinguished Faculty Lecturer Award. He earned his PhD in history from Claremont Graduate University and is the author and coauthor of several scholarly books, including "Empire Can Wait”: American Opposition to Hawaiian Annexation, 1893–1898 and Pacific Eldorado: A History of Greater California.
“With unusual insight and an engaging writing style, Tom Osborne reveals the backstory of coastal protection in California. The central character in this drama is Peter Douglas. Outrageous, colorful, stubborn, passionate, and infinitely creative, Douglas is a leading candidate for environmental sainthood.”—Mary Shallenberger, Past Chair, California Coastal Commission

"Osborne reveals a critical chapter in California’s history by chronicling the heroic career of Peter Douglas, whose leadership of the California Coastal Commission made it the most effective coastal management agency in the world. Douglas may have done more to define what California is today than anyone else. Osborne, an activist who loves the coast, writes with passionate prose that is backed by academic rigor."—Chad Nelsen, CEO of Surfrider Foundation

Coastal Sage is a keen appraisal of the California Coastal Commission’s legendary first director, Peter Douglas. Its timing is perfect. If the current administration accelerates offshore oil production, the beaches Douglas preserved will be despoiled. In these contentious times, Coastal Sage reads like an activist’s primer.”—Char Miller, author of Not So Golden State: Sustainability vs. the California Dream

“This is a remarkably important study of California’s coastal region as well as a portrait of the sage who led the effort to conserve its beauty and resources. Deeply steeped in historical research, Coastal Sage should inform all future debates about California’s coastline.”—David Igler, author of The Great Ocean: Pacific Worlds from Captain Cook to the Gold Rush


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