A beautifully done book--on a subject that, conventionally presented, would rate a yawn from 99 percent of the reading...


MOUNTAIN IN THE CLOUDS: A Search for the Wild Salmon

A beautifully done book--on a subject that, conventionally presented, would rate a yawn from 99 percent of the reading public: the destruction of the Olympic Peninsula's wild salmon runs through environmental degradation (logging, dams, pollution) and, inseparably, the recourse to fish hatcheries as a remedy. The latter constitutes the ecological news, provides the salient political and economic insights, stirs the deepest apprehensions: are we replacing wildlife, here as elsewhere, with inferior substitutes? Hatcheries, Brown gradually discloses, were offered as an alternative to fish ladders, at dams, which would have enabled the wild salmon to reach their spawning grounds; but not only were hatcheries unable to replace the fish lost, hatchery salmon displaced wild salmon--through spreading disease, through direct competition for food, through (""most pernicious"") destruction, by interbreeding, of the genetic diversity intrinsic to the salmon's migratory existence and stream-by-stream adaptation. Meanwhile the Washington State Dept. of Fisheries' budget and power came to depend on building a hatchery system, not on protecting the wild salmon runs; and--a secondary theme--the interests of commercial fishermen, in mere quantity, supplanted the treaty-rights of the Peninsula Indians, in half the wild fish. To convey the loss, Brown proceeds stream-by-stream. On the Queets, he and two companions search for Chinook, largest of the Pacific salmon--and he discusses the impact of clearcut logging and offshore trolling. On the Elwha, where the Chinook were once the largest of all--the strength of the rapids, in one section, probably acted as a natural-selection mechanism--no Chinook are left. On the Humptulips and around Greys Harbor, logging and pulp-mill pollution leave ""dead fish, running into the millions""; now, Brown notes, Weyerhauser is moving to the Philippines. Two passages stand out as antithetical and complementary: a description, by flashlight, of pink salmon spawning on the Gray-wolf; and the concluding suggestion, with reference also to the Atlantic and wild English salmon, ""that industrial society extends and consolidates its control by creating scarcities that can only be met by entering the money economy."" Comparison will be made (by others than the publisher) to John McPhee. Each of McPhee's books, however, chiefly whets one's appetite for the next. Brown, resting less on personalities (though key figures, including Dixie Ray Lee, are deftly pinioned) or prose-style (though he's a clean, unpretentiously expressive writer), conveys an immediate, equal concern for the fate of the wild salmon and the-reasons-why.

Pub Date: June 18, 1982


Page Count: -

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1982