America’s public lands have always been politicized. The dedication of over 600 million acres as public property came about at the very beginning of our nation. John D. Leshy is an expert in public-land policy and in Our Common Ground (Yale University Press, $45), he delineates the path it’s taken in American history. He ties in key moments that have shaped today’s vast public holdings, portraying them as part of the American identity. Past leaders carved out policies that continue to protect public tracts for recreation, education, and the conservation of biodiversity. All these lands were afforded to us by the United States government, which represents different perspectives and interests today. This book inspires hope and moments of longing for a time when people were more unified about the inherent importance of public lands. But it also gives readers an extensive understanding about the role they’ve had, and continue to have, in America.