Wonder and Ecology in the Last Wilderness
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 The wondrous and subtle cultural landscape of Yellowstone, and the powerful effect it has had on the human imagination, is lovingly detailed in this comprehensive, level-headed study from Schullery (The Bear Hunter's Century, 1988, etc.). This history of our first national park concentrates on the dynamic ideas and issues of the place rather than its bureaucracy and physical plant, reveling in the ``fabulously complex suite of geophysical and ecological processes'' called nature. Schullery is interested in the park as synecdoche: a park to be sure, but also a defining feature in the national life, a cultural, political, intellectual, and spiritual crossroad. He takes as his starting point the immediate postglacial recolonization of the area, detailing fauna and flora, speculating on the early human occupants, the far-reaching obsidian trade, the gradual development of the Crow, Shoshone, Bannock, and Blackfoot cultures, as shrewd, involved, and convoluted as any Old World counterpart. John Colter, Joe Meek, and Jim Bridger get their due, as well as the miners, travelers, and adventurers lured to the valley by reports of treasure and wonder. But Schullery concentrates on the postestablishment era, from 1872 on, and how the park has shaped, and been shaped by, contemporary modes of environmental thought. It has been a proving ground for all manner of conservation theory from prey/predator imbalances, wolf reintroduction, fire suppression, and ecological process management; on the other hand, there is the sorry tale of park concessionaries, the rivalries between the Park Service and the Forest Service, and the question of what a quality park experience represents for the throngs- -Winnebagoist to backcountry rambler--who pour through the storied gateways. Schullery's ``search'' is for a chance to embrace Yellowstone's wonder, and he gives it one warm, all-embracing bear hug. (33 b&w photos, 2 maps)

Pub Date: July 29th, 1997
ISBN: 0-395-84174-7
Page count: 322pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1997


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