Wonderful splashes of ice water to chill the hearts and dampen the enthusiasm of the most die-hard environmentalists. Budiansky, a senior writer at US News and World Report, takes to task the naive ""greens,"" doctrinaire Sierra Club types, and even such icons as E.O. ""Biodiversity"" Wilson for their reverence for wildness and the wisdom of nature, in contrast to the intrusions of modern man. Never was and never will be a benign rule of a Mother Nature dedicated to harmony and balance, Budiansky avers. In North America alone thousands of years of the Indian practice of burning fields changed the landscape, creating prairies from woodlands. In turn, the interventions of weather, temperature, natural fires, population dynamics, what-have-you, changed prairies into woodlands, caused species to go extinct, and led to the import of hundreds of ""exotics""--non-native flora and fauna that have been around for so long, you'd never know they were imports. Much of the book is devoted to delicious iconoclasm, with Budiansky attacking conventional ecological wisdom such as the ""climax"" theory, which speaks to the natural succession of generations of shrubs and saplings that leads to the so-called mature ""climax"" old hardwood forest. Not so--for the various reasons cited above, We even learn that clear-cutting may not be the devil it's made out to be--that varying-aged clear-cut fields can allow for the development of varying shade-resistant and shade-tolerant woodland species and thus preserve some manner of diversity. Budiansky cites numerous examples of better land management that makes use of meticulously collected data to enter into more complex equations with some predictive value. Whether it's a grouse crash in England or the current successful restoration of tallgrass to highway and street verges in Chicago--where there's a will to understand what happened, there appears to be a rational way. Expect fierce outcries from the Walden crowd.