Huge but not ""too big to be damaged by unwise management""; apparently rugged but ""actually a frail country. Destroy the living resources, and it takes three times as long to recover here."" Such is Alaska, uniquely endowed, uniquely endangered. Past the briefing on topographical and climatic zones, population make-up and distribution, land ownership and management, this is a selective examination of ecological issues with first-hand reports on some of the sore spots. Like ""The Beautiful Sad Face of Amchitka"" the Aleutian island that is at once a national wildlife refuge and an atomic testing site. . . and the victim of centuries of abuse, its native population decimated, its tundra littered with World War II Quonset huts. Currently the sea otters are being transported to safer waters, a delicate operation that Mr. Laycock details. With the same casual expertise he discusses threats to bears, musk-oxen and wolves especially -- from commercial and sports hunters but most devastatingly through changes in the landscape. And, inescapably, there is the disturbing presence of oil, already responsible for pollution in Cook Inlet, threatening more destruction in Bristol Bay, and endangering the whole fabric of life on the North Slope. Not thorough in any particular (cf. Daniel Chasan's Klondike '70 for the oil boom) but a brief, informed appreciation of what's at stake and why, to be extended by 48 photographs. The first volume in The Audubon Library.