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Not another species-by-species status report or conservationist prescription for action, this more original undertaking is an interdisciplinary history of American ""nature myths,"" or attitudes toward nature, especially predatory animals, and of the role of federal scientist-bureaucrats in shaping, applying, and sometimes resisting the changing popular views and factional pressures. Dunlap's real focus is on public policy, as set and practiced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (earlier the Bureau of Biological Survey), and on the individuals who have played key roles in the agency; but his chosen purview ranges from developments in science (the rise of Darwinism; the emergence of ecology as a discipline and a movement; the growing professionalization of biology) to popular animal stories and shows (from the fiction of Ernest Thompson Seton and Thornton W. Burgess to Disney's nature movies and TV's Wild Kingdom). He also looks at the elements and interests that shaped the agency's policies--among them hunters' demands for conservation, wool-growers' demands for predator control (creating basic contradictions within an agency dedicated to both saving and exterminating wildlife), the humane movement's campaigns against wolf and coyote traps and poisons, the rising consciousness of conservationist organizations, and the policies surrounding passage of the Endangered Species Act. Toward the end, Dunlap notes that whereas the once-maligned predators are now better understood and widely defended, ""pro-wolf sentiment is [still] strongest where the animal [is] not and never will be."" At the least, Dunlap has compiled an interesting and useful record of bureaucracy in context and in action. And if his treatment of broad intellectual currents and popular attitudes stops short of sophisticated theory or analysis, it considerably enlarges his evenhanded and conscientiously researched study of the complex relationships at work.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1988
Publisher: Princeton Univ. Press