After receiving his degree from Harvard Law School in 1983, Karl Boyd Brooks practiced civil trial and appellate work in his hometown of Boise, Idaho, while serving three terms in the Idaho State Senate from 1986 to 1992. Brooks later became the executive director and legislative liaison for the Idaho Conservation League, the state’s preeminent citizens environmental group. He earned his Ph.D. in history from the University of Kansas in 2000 and subsequently joined the school’s history and environmental studies faculty. Following a year-long stint as a Supreme Court Fellow in Washington, D.C., Brooks became an associate professor at the University of Kansas in 2006. He is also the author of Public Power, Private Dams: The Hells Canyon High Dam Controversy.
Private-power critics of the Hells Canyon High Dam posed difficult questions about the implications of damming rivers to create power and to grow crops. Activists, attorneys, and scientists pioneered legal tactics and political rhetoric that would help to define the environmental movement in the 1960s. The debate, however, was less about endangered salmon or threatened wild country and more about who would control land and water and whether state enterprise or private capital would oversee the supply of electricity.
By thwarting the dam�s construction, Snake Basin irrigators retained control over water as well as economic and political power in Idaho, putting the state on a postwar path that diverged markedly from that of bordering states. In the end, the opponents of the dam were responsible for preserving high deserts and mountain rivers from radical change.
With Public Power, Private Dams, Karl Brooks makes an important contribution not only to the history of the Pacific Northwest and the region�s anadromous fisheries but also to the environmental history of the United States in the period after World War II.