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by Jack Turner

Pub Date: April 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-312-26672-1
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Roughly elegant meditations on one of the wildest of wild places.

Nature writer and wilderness guide Turner (Teewinot: A Year in the Teton Range, 2000, etc.), a habitué of Yellowstone National Park and environs for half a century, marvels at the place. Greater Yellowstone houses the tallest peaks in Wyoming and Montana, the headwaters of three of the country’s largest rivers, the “largest glaciated region in the contiguous states” and a lot of bears, elk, mountain lions, wolves, bison and other assorted critters. It is also immense, taking in some 18 million acres, which, Turner notes, is just about the size of the state of West Virginia. Yet, he argues, it could stand to be bigger, at least by protecting corridors to the north and south that permit the free movement of migratory animals that don’t know the difference between the private and the public domains. The park’s antelope, for instance, migrate 200 miles south in cold weather, while one radio-collared wolverine “traveled hundreds of miles through national parks, national forests, BLM land, and private property.” But civilization is increasingly coming to Yellowstone, hemming it in with vacation homes and resorts, “replete with Ivy League cowboys, Hummers, and log mansions.” Turner climbs the highest peaks and ventures out into the loneliest, most bear-haunted valleys to get a good look at Yellowstone before it…well, not exactly disappears, but becomes something other than what it is, thanks to the current mania for development. He is plain-spoken in his detestations: “Saudi Arabia is butt-ugly from energy development. Do you want the Yellowstone country to look that way? I don’t.” (Don’t even get him started on snowmobiles.) He is just as plain-spoken with respect to his enthusiasms, from fly-fishing on the cheap to wandering without a plan through untraveled territory to hanging out with the grizzlies.

Champions of Yellowstone and the truly wild West already know Turner’s work. This one merits a wide audience, particularly in the Department of the Interior.