You can kill land by skinning it alive or by slowly poisoning it, and it is murder all the same."" Thus Mr. Brooks with some spirit sets the tone for a series of short pieces which recount recent conservation battles at home and abroad. These are familiar cases -- Alaskan engineering and mining, the Everglades, the North Cascades, etc. -- but Mr. Brooks writes without that overhang of gloom which darkens so much conservationist discussion and even with a trace of humor. Therefore he can find some amusement in the Forest Services' attempt to jollify a stump wilderness by pointing to snow peaks as an example of ""multiple use""; and he titles one huge dam project ""The Plot to Drown Alaska."" But as an explorer of wilderness and scenic areas he inevitably confronts the American duality of values: ""the erosion of a theoretical ideal by the pounding of practical politics."" And he is grateful for the many little battles won although the final victory is not in sight. Two chapters discuss African wildlife and there will be many photographs and maps. Mr. Brooks is the author of Roadless Area, a similarly energetic and engaging tour of natural glories.