LAST REFUGE by Jim Robbins


The Environmental Showdown in the American West
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 Montana journalist Robbins turns a sharp, environmentally friendly eye on the multifaceted ecological crisis now being experienced in the mountains, plains, parks, and private lands of the West. Distinguishing between the Old West--a time and place in which logging, mining, and agriculture predominated--and the New West, in which those activities have been curtailed due to the settlement of the region and dwindling resources, Robbins uses the situation in Yellowstone National Park and in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem as a frequent focal point. The park, deluged by visitors and beset by controversy (including its policy on limited burns, said to be responsible for the catastrophic fires of 1988), has many problems common to other public preserves in the region. But outside the park, the situation is no less critical, with toxic tailings from more than a century of mining along with agricultural runoff leaching into water supplies and ruining streams, making an already scarce commodity even less available. In the 1970's, the boom-and- bust phenomenon common to the mining industry may have brought the proud city of Butte, Montana, to its knees while in the late 1980's bringing massive growth through improved technology to Nevada towns like Elko, but the economic base of the New West is increasingly dependent on tourism: Robbins finds that a town like Dubois, Wyoming, which shifted from sawmills to scenery as its means of survival, offers the look of the future. History, politics, and anecdotes combine in a fluid, highly readable mix: This may not break new ground in its call for change- -but it still provides compelling evidence, from a variety of perspectives, that change is urgently needed.

Pub Date: Sept. 20th, 1993
ISBN: 0-688-11178-5
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1993