A COMMON FATE by Joe Cone

A COMMON FATE

Salmon and People in the Pacific Northwest
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A weighty, cautionary tale about the Pacific salmon: 50 million years in the making, a handful of decades in the unmaking. Cone, a science journalist currently working for Oregon Sea Grant, a research organization, begins his tale in the early 1970s, when a number of people started to fear that something was rotten in the salmon runs of the Pacific Northwest. Logging had raised water temperatures and increased siltation; overfishing had depleted the stock of the fish; the river systems had been dammed to a fare-thee-well, making the salmon's spawning return treacherous. Cone profiles a host of characters--a Forest Service ecologist, a pro bono environmental lawyer, a geographer working for local developers, a professional fish advocate--who found the salmon's plight on the Columbia and Snake rivers a bellwether signaling damage to the whole intricate forest community. Since salmon were part of the region's mythology, people would listen; or so those concerned thought. But good intentions met major resistance: When the local economy is founded on the commercial exploitation of nature, protecting it becomes politically dicey. Cone chronicles the efforts of the pols, particularly the two Oregon senators (both Republican but environmental opposites), Mark Hatfield, who fought to protect the salmon, and Bob Packwood, who fought against the Endangered Species Act. Cone's research is broad and deep--perhaps too broad and deep, as the narrative gets ponderous with details that should have found a home in the footnotes. But authoritative it is: Every meeting, every brainstorming session, is minuted; position papers, petitions, and endangered-species proposals are reported. Long and drawn out to the point that only the most dedicated will finish it. Cone also does his book--not to mention the salmon- -a disservice by muting his clear conservationist sympathies under an awkward, ill-fitting cloak of reportorial detachment. (Photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Feb. 22nd, 1995
ISBN: 0-8050-2388-7
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1994