An admirable, warts-and-all history of a milestone in environmental preservation.




The story of a national park might seem a niche subject, but OnEarth magazine editor Black (Casting a Spell: The Bamboo Fly Rod and the American Pursuit of Perfection, 2006, etc.) surrounds it with a colorful, stormy, often-distressing history of our northern mountain states.

The author begins with Lewis and Clark, whose 1804–06 expedition passed nearby but brought back only rumors of odd geological events. The northern Rockies remained a backwater for another half-century. Almost no one but fur traders took an interest for the first 30 years; wagon trains pouring west after 1840 passed well to the south. By the 1850s gold mining and ranching produced settlers, quickly followed by the Army, both anxious to eliminate the Indians. Black provides painful details of 20 years of conflict that accomplished this goal. Lacking gold or good grazing, the Yellowstone area attracted few settlers, but visitors brought back tales of wondrous geysers, boiling springs and breathtaking scenery. In 1869 the small, privately funded Cook-Folsom-Peterson Expedition produced such a tantalizing report that Montana residents organized a large expedition. That expedition spent a month exploring, resulting in a torrent of publicity that led to the federally funded Hayden Geological Survey of 1871. Its enthusiastic report included historical photographs by William Henry Jackson and paintings by Thomas Moran, and the resulting publicity persuaded Congress to create the world’s first national park in 1872. Congress did not, however, provide money, so vandalism, poaching and commercial exploitation flourished until 1886 when the Army moved in. It did not leave until the new National Park Service took over in 1918.

An admirable, warts-and-all history of a milestone in environmental preservation.

Pub Date: March 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-38319-0

Page Count: 576

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2011

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A sturdy companion to Michael Lieder and Jake Page’s Wild Justice (1997)—highly recommended for readers interested in Native...



A solid case study in an emerging trend: American Indian lawyers’ use of the courts to extract rights and dollars hidden away in long-forgotten treaties.

When William Clark saw the fall run of salmon on the Columbia River, writes freelance journalist VanDevelder, he exclaimed that he could cross from bank to bank on their backs without ever touching water. In 1991, only a single salmon made the journey to an Idaho lake; it was “stuffed, shellacked, and mounted on a pine board and hung in the governor’s office in the Idaho statehouse in Boise.” Its fate aptly describes a subtext of VanDevelder’s narrative, for there was a time when Social Darwinists in the American government hoped that the Indians, dispossessed of their land and stripped of their traditions, would simply fade away. In 1945, that thinking seemed a factor in the US Army Corps of Engineers’ plan to create a vast diversion dam across the Missouri River in North Dakota, one that would flood lands claimed by the Arikara, Hidatsa, and Mandan peoples, who had helped Lewis and Clark during the winter of 1804–5 and regretted it ever since. The dam was built, despite the protestations of Indian delegations to the US Congress, displacing thousands of Indians—including the family of Raymond Cross, who would grow up to attend Yale Law and who would take a vigorous interest in redressing the wrongs visited on his people. So he has done, battling the likes of Justices Rehnquist and Scalia, whom Cross characterizes as “an ideological tag team and throwback to another century.” Despite setbacks, writes VanDevelder, Cross and other Indian attorneys have been hitting hard, reasserting Indian rights and throwing unschooled judges into confusion as “Federal courts are now routinely asked to sort through the myriad of conflicting conditions to divine what tribal leaders understood at the time [a given] treaty was made.”

A sturdy companion to Michael Lieder and Jake Page’s Wild Justice (1997)—highly recommended for readers interested in Native American issues.

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2004

ISBN: 0-316-89689-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2004

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A careful, informed analysis of the origins, progress and disposition of the complex, high-stakes legal disputes that find...



In her first book, the National Law Journal’s longtime chief Washington correspondent examines the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court, seven years after the appointment of the youngest chief justice since John Marshall.

Along with her credentials as a lawyer, Coyle brings 25 years of reporting on the high court to this careful unpacking of select, enormously consequential, 5-4 decisions, supplying useful and colorful context about the litigants, lawyers, politics and legal precedent. She’s especially good on the maneuvering of various special interest groups to identify, frame and shepherd particular cases through the legal system, all with a hopeful eye toward eventual Supreme Court review. These ingredients come together most successfully in her smooth discussion of the right to bear arms at issue in Heller, the most important Second Amendment case ever, her handling of two cases emerging from the racial diversity plans of school boards in Louisville and Seattle, and her treatment of the widely controversial Citizens United, where free speech and campaign finance law collided. Perhaps the court’s recent momentous ruling on the Affordable Health Care Act accounts for the deficiencies of this least-satisfying chapter. There’s a richer story to tell, and Coyle doesn’t appear to have all the goods. Otherwise, this is the best popular account so far of the Roberts-led court, about the varied background and clashing philosophies of the justices, the careful crafting of arguments to secure five votes, the court’s continually shifting center of gravity and the peculiar burden that rests with the chief justice. Coyle clearly disapproves of the court’s conservative bent, but she gives all sides a fair, respectful hearing and demonstrates her own reverence for the institution.

A careful, informed analysis of the origins, progress and disposition of the complex, high-stakes legal disputes that find their way to the court.

Pub Date: May 7, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4516-2751-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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