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The book Environmental Restoration and Design for Recreation and Ecotourism begins with a clarification of the title. The book is not depicting classic environmental restoration, in which an ecosystem is returned to some historic condition. Rather, the case studies in this book are termed examples of “environmental reparation” or “environmental regeneration.” Each case study illustrates a project where a severely altered human environment is repurposed into a combination of wildlife habitat and a public park or preserve. In each case, the habitat is quite different from the original historical landscape. Each project was imbedded in or proximate to urban environments, and each also had a strong element of redesigning site hydrologic function.
Environmental Restoration and Design would be useful for any practitioner in a restoration or reparation field, as well as for recreation planners and citizen activists involved with reengmeermg landscapes to new integrated environmental uses. The book would also be useful as a textbook for students in these fields. Each case study provides a detailed overview of the process planners went through and the logistical challenges to site design and implementation. In brief, the case studies are as follows:
Case Study 1: Stream Daylighting in the San Francisco Bay Area. At 6 pages, this case study was short compared to the others and was less substantive. Four projects were covered, including the decommissioning of a 4-acre rail freight yard in order to “daylight” Strawberry Creek and create a public park. Each of the projects had to prevent neighborhood flooding while restoring a riparian ecosystem.
Case Study 2: Arcata Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary. The case study described the conversion of a water-treatment system in Areata, California into a wetland-based treatment system. The project afforded theopportunity to reconnect the community with its coastal waterfront, which had been heavily industrialized. Habitat design accommodated the needs of shellfish, finfish, and freshwater species. Ponds were incorporated for wastewater treatment. The site incorporated 150 acres for recreation, including 5 miles of trail and an interpretive center that hosts school groups. An interesting dimension of this study was the dynamics of gaming public support in a conservative community.
Case Study 3: Conversion of Crissy Field, San Francisco, California. Cnssy Field was an historic airfield used first for the 1911 Exposition, then as a racetrack and by barnstormers, and finally as a military base. The contaminated airfield was no longer needed. This project was especially interesting because of competing public uses, and major differences of opinion between natural-resource planners and archeologists. A fusion of goals accommodated recreational uses (surfing, dog walking, and an amphitheater), wetland restoration, and preserved portions of diverse historical elements. Snowy plover habitat was designated as off-limits to dogs. Restoration of sand dunes and the tidal prism were interesting and challenging parts of the project.
Case Study 4: Las Vegas Wash, Clark County, Nevada. The Las Vegas Wash was originally a dry desert wash with intermittent water flow, running mostly during spring and following storm events. By 1955, with development of the city and discharge of treated wastewater, the wash morphed into perennial stream flows with extensive wetlands. As more time went by, major storm events scoured out and cut off much of the wetlands and threatened downstream property values. The wash attracted undesirable human uses including garbage dumping and indiscriminate trail development from AT Vs. A multi-agency project completely redesigned the wash to reconnect wetlands, convert the area to a public park with a trail system and visitor center, and reengineer erosion-control structures. Project design addressed staged replacement of invasive tamariskas well as habitat protection for the declining willow fly catcherand endangered desert tortoise. The study extensively covered both the planning phase and the implementation phase of the project.
Case Study 5: London Wetland Centre. Barn Elms Reservoirs provided drinking water to West London for decades. An ancillary benefit was providing open-water habitat to migrating waterfowl. With a new water-delivery system in place, the water district needed to decommission the reservoirs. In stepped the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) with an ambitious proposal to convert the brick and concrete lined reservoirs into a wetland park. The London Wetland Centre was designed to provide each type of southeastern England wetland habitat as well as several habitats representing different parts of the world. Thirty acres of the site were developed for high-end housing in order to generate funds for the remaining 100 acres of reserve. Site planning and logistics were heavily constrained by the surrounding urban environment, including designing traffic flows and not importing or exporting earthen materials from the site.
Each case study is adapted from a presentation, which results in a very readable telling of each story. The case studies are lavishly illustrated with photos, maps, and site drawings. The maps, shrunk to fit the page, and rendered in black and white instead of color, are difficult to read. However they are still useful as an example of types of resource inventories or design features important to planning.
Common to each study are the details of how public involvement shaped the design. In some cases, buy-in was initially difficult. There is also the sense of how well-received each project was upon completion. While the book is not a technical “how-to” guide, it exposes the reader to the many facets and challenges involved in good planning. I found the book to be an enjoyable and inspiring read.
My final surprise in reading this book was discussing it with my father. As I described the London Wetland Centre to him, he said, “You know, we used to fly missions where we used reservoirs in West London as landmarks to line up our practice bomb targets. We didn't actually drop bombs, but we had an interrupted radar signal that could be used to calculate our position”. My father was in the U.S. Air Force stationed in England during the Cold War. I showed him the aerial view of the four grid-like square reservoirs in an oxbow of the River Thames. “Yup, that's it,” he said. “It looked just like that.” Small world.
Tibet Wild is a book that is about more than Tibet and the surrounding area. It is a book about looking at a whole landscape, including the human aspects of it, to create a positive outlook for conservation. Throughout the book, Schaller emphasized that, by helping a certain key species, whole landscapes and ecosystems could be protected, which is an important takeaway that many land managers and conservationists already understand.
Schaller does a great job of showing how to take conservation beyond research by involving local people, governments, and Buddhist monasteries. Most chaptersare about a specific animal or a region, with a few chapters at the beginning about the chiru (Tibetan antelope), and a chapter each about pika, argali sheep, Marco Polo sheep, Tibetan brown bear, and snow leopard.
Each of these animals gives Schaller the opportunity to show how he works with the government and local people to encourage good conservation practices. As part of this, he asks the people what concerns them. Many of the people are pastoralists, and they are concerned about the loss of livestock, because the loss of one animal could mean a loss of an entire year's income. When these people admit to killing wild animals for profit or to save their livestock, the author sympathize s with them, understanding that they are just trying to survive and that conservation is less important to them than their own survival.
There are different ways Schaller tries to influence various governments to conserve land and animals, and one of these is the Pamir Peace Park, on the borders of China, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. This peace park had not come into being at the time of publishing, because of misunderstandings what the park would mean for the livestock herders and trophy hunters that wanted to use the land. In his suggestion for managing the land, he wanted both of these activities included within the park to prevent displacing many people. The park could provide income from tourism, so long as the animals hunted were managed correctly. Schaller seemed quite the diplomat m cases such as this.
A chapter that could be seen as out of place, but broke the book up and added to it, in my opinion, was about how Schaller came to be a naturalist. This chapter tied his past of being a wanderer to his career, and also tied his early career to his studies in Tibet and the surrounding area. It was m this chapter that I really felt like Schaller brought the whole world together, not only the vast Asian ecosystems that he presents m this book. He showed that the history of a person and place affects what it turns into, with the example being his own life.
Overall, the book is enjoyable, albeit somewhat long in places. For example, Schaller introduces several rather lengthy historical notes that added little to the narrative. Nonetheless, Schaller effectively conveys a sense of what it has been like to devote one's career to the conservation of the world's wild places and wild animals. I felt the frustration and excitement as Schaller did. I learned about the natural aspects of the Tibetan Plateau but also about the impact of conservation on local economies and the challenges of convincing government officials that investing in conservation is a wise strategy. I think that these aspects of the book were invaluable and will be the largest part of what I take away from the book.
Through The Forest Unseen, David George Haskell delivers an intimate account from the world of the eastern deciduous forest. With a voice that rises above his rich natural history lessons, Haskell depicts the subjects of forest life, from the residents of the sunlight-absorbing canopy to the denizens of the moldermg litter. We learn about the cellular mechanisms plants use to cope with freezing temperatures, and the eye structure that allows foraging chickadees to spot tiny morsels of food. While many ecologists and managers strive to connect process and pattern at the landscape scale, Haskell's hand-lens focus on forest biology provides a refreshing change of both pace and perspective.
Each chapter is titled with a calendar date and a topic, and the book moves topic by topic through a year of life and death among the creatures and phenomena of the forest. Haskell trams his attention on one square meter of old-growth forest just off the edge of the Cumberland Plateau, the western-most formation of Appalachia in south-central Tennessee. The square meter is presented as a mandala, which means “circle” in Sanskrit and is used by some Buddhist and Hindu traditions to establish a sacred space or represent a microcosm of the universe.
Haskell parlays this element of Eastern religion into a reference point for the story of the forest, twining his personal observations from the mandala with fascinating accounts and explanations from the scientific literature. The incorporation of natural history and ecology is unobtrusive, and belies the chef-like skill with which Haskell has seasoned the book with facts and lessons. The observations and anecdotes resonate quietly, and develop these emergent themes: the relationships among members of this community are intricate, the relationships between these members and their environment are precarious, and the fragile dynamics of the forest are laid bare to the coarse impact of humans.
But this is not a book about the management or use of forests, and has no prescriptions or direct advice about how humans should interact with these ecosystems. Rather, Haskell relates a simple mission of observation. He explains that as a biology professor he often goes to the woods with a hypothesis to test or a lesson to teach his students; his day-to-day vigil at the mandala is explicitly about waiting for the story to unfold around him.
However, even an account based on passive observation cannot avoid discussing human impact, and Haskell writes matter-of-factly about the history of humans m the forest. Taking cues on temporal scale from the boulders and trees of the mandala, Haskell considers patterns of human settlement, logging, and deer population management with a long-term perspective. In the end, themost egregious human impacts occur at rates and scales that exceed the ability of forest organisms to adapt, from extensive clear-cutting to acid rain.
At the outset, Haskell declares his status as a passive observer: he seeks to minimize his personal impact on the mandala and abstains from picking flowers, removing weeds, killing pests, or collecting specimens. Thus two main characters emerge: the author as observer and the observed forest community. But again, the story of this forest cannot be told without accounting for the activity of Haskell's fellow humans. I perceived that Haskell effectively creates a third character group for other humans, past and present, who had, and continue to have, an active presence in the forest.
These three character groups converge in both space and time as Haskell realizes that a white plastic orb has strayed from the golf course atop the plateau and has settled m the litter among the fungi and salamanders of the mandala. Haskell recounts his internal struggle over removing the golf ball - whether he should emerge from his role of passive observer to defend what a classic environmentalist might consider the biological and aesthetic integrity of the mandala. The monologue is enthralling, expanding into the most lucid contemplation I've encountered on the place of humans and human activity m the ecosystems m which we live.
E.O. Wilson claims that “Haskell leads the reader into a new genre of nature writing, located between science and poetry…” Despite my trepidation m disagreeing with E.O. Wilson, I do not share his opinion on the novelty of Haskell's style. Instead, I found the familiar cadence of humor and insight characteristic of Aldo Leopold's timeless duck-blind philosophy. The comparison is hardly elusive, given Haskell's effective use of the almanac format, but the similarity runs deeper. Both Leopold and Haskell took to a specific place to tell stories and teach lessons from the perspective of the organisms that comprise the land community. Importantly, both authors refrain from autobiography, sparing us personal narrative beyond what is necessary to connect readers to the organisms and phenomena they seek to describe.
I will argue, though, that Leopold's almanac became essential for how he applied it, not simply for its poetry. Leopold used the almanac to establish between reader and philosopher a commonappreciation for the subjective experience of non-human organisms, a critical logical foundation for his pragmatic extension of ethics to include all members of the land community. In my opinion, Haskell's keen eye and astute voice are on par with Leopold's in terms of both skill and scope. Only time will tell how barely peering, and certainly not diving, into the pool of ethics will affect Haskell's ascent to the ranks of Leopold, Muir, and Thoreau. Regardless of whether The Forest Unseen earns a position on the proverbial shelf for timeless literature on nature and the environment, I recommend you add it to yours.
As a quasi-regional program of the National Park Service, my colleagues and I work in nine national parks in Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. One of those Minnesota parks is the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, which is comprised of a 72-mile stretch of the upper Mississippi River where it runs through the metropolitan area of Minneapolis and St. Paul. The casual visitor may not at first understand how this stretch of working river qualifies as a national treasure in the same way that the Grand Canyon does, but spend some time there and it becomes quite clear. “MISS,” as we call it, is a national icon in the truest sense - in the same sense as the Grand Canyon - because it is a working river, a place where people, nature, and industry have come together, and along which a nation was built. After reading Up on the River, I think John Madson knew this to be true.
Madson (1923–1995) was a fisheries biologist with a keen sense of history, humor, and place. His home place was in Iowa - “between the saints,” he writes, referring to the stretch of Mississippi River between St. Paul, Minnesota, and St. Louis, Missouri - but his heart's place was on the river. Up on the River is a storyteller's paean to everything that makes the river what it is and what the river makes of the people whose lives are drawn to and touched by it. Madson was that ideal blend of naturalist and humanist, and he discusses history, geography, and the people of the river (“river rats”) as easily as he does freshwater mussels, fish, and seasonal phenology. He also had an artist's grasp of language, using words and phrases in humorous and evocative ways. In describing the glacial periods that created the river and the rest of the continent, he writes, “Before it ended, almost a third of the earth's surface would have been under ice as much as a mile thick. Eighteen million square miles would be bulldozed in the world's mightiest back-and-fill operation.” When he meets a friend early one morning to spend a day clamming (“picking shell”) on the river, his description of the scene fills the senses.
… I could see Joe down ahead working hip-deep in stirred mist, laying crowfoot bars on the racks of his johnboat. None of the smells had yet been burned away by the sun; they had been sharpened and intensified by night coolness and dewfall - the dawn smell of dampened road dust, the work-smells of wood ashes under the shell-cooking tanks and fish smokers along the riverbank, and gasoline and tarred nets, the sweetish reek of clam meats and a large, very dead fish somewhere nearby, and underlying it all the rich organic smell of the River itself, compounded of mud and water, rotting wood and leaves, wet sand, mink urine, and the whole infinite roster of dead and living components that constitute the wild Mississippi.
Madson also shares ariverman's language, and I am still trying to find definitions for some of the words.
“Of all these [obstacles to navigation], snags were the most pestiferous - the dreaded “hull inspectors” that ambushed luckless boats of every kind, and steamboats in particular.”
“Reincarnations of Mike Fink to a man, [logging raftsmen] were universally regarded as ramstugenous alligators who played about the same role in the river towns that the wildest of Texas drovers filled at Kansas Railheads.” Try Googling “ramstugenous.” The first listing in the results is a reference to this book.
“The bowfin or dogfish, Amia calva, is known locally downstream as ‘John A. Grindle,’ although I've never met anyone who could explain why. Whoever the original John Grindle was, he must have been a ring-tailed, case-hardened, center-fire son of a [b****] with all the bark on. Probably some old commercial fisherman.”
That last quote, in addition to providing a glimpse into river-speak, also demonstrates the sense of humor with which Madson writes. His wit rises to the surface often, and I found myself laughing out loud more than once while reading.
Like the Mississippi itself, the chapters of this book meander, sometimes working themselves slowly into a still pool. In these
moments, between the lines, it is easy to see how a person is affected by the river, how it becomes part of one's personality. Through Madson's stories, this slow but meaningful movement and contemplation is a pleasure that the reader can experience vicariously. Plus, the illustrations that accompany each story - done by Madson's wife, Dycie - have a folksy quality that complements the stories well. The only thing I found myself wanting from the book was a few maps to give some geographical context to the places that are mentioned in the stories.
Speaking of geography, perhaps the most intriguing passage comes early in the book - page 22 in the Prologue - where Madson suggests that the place we know and refer to as the Mississippi River could have been completely different if explorers Marquette and Joliet had come upstream instead of going downriver.
If they had started in the south and gone upstream with different guides [ones that did not speak an Algonquin dialect] they might have used a southern name like “Pekitanoui.” In fact, their whole way of looking at things might have been different if they had come upstream to the junction of the Missouri and Mississippi.
As that junction was approached from the south the two rivers would appear to be about the same size. There would be good reason to think that the Missouri was the real continuation of the mam river and the Upper Mississippi was only a large tributary; further exploration would verify this. The Missouri River is longer than the Upper Mississippi by nearly sixteen hundred miles and its total drainage basin is three times as large.
Can you imagine? “Old Man River” could have referred to the Missouri; the “Mighty Mississippi” could have been the Mighty Pekitanoui.
It is good for us to step back from the purely scientific part of our work every once in a while and to look at our interests from different perspectives. It broadens our thinking, widens the lens through which we look at problems, and deepens our understanding and passion. For those like me who only visit the Big River every once in a while, this book is a nice way to visit more often - and to have the river stay with me longer.
Maine is an enigmatic component of New England. The coastal tourism contrasts with the remote interior forests. Like the rest of New England, Maine was uncovered by glaciers and has been shaped by humans ever since. Maine does not suffer the same development pressures as southern New England, but is starting to have similar patterns of landscape fragmentation. In The Changing Nature of the Maine Woods,authors Andrew Barton, CharlesCogbill, and Alan White succinctly address the historical and present-day forces that have shaped the forests of Mame. The book proceeds logically, starting with glaciation, describing the effects of European settlement, and ending with a discussion on the future of the Maine woods. Along the way, there are fascinating sidebars and detailed stories woven into the narrative.
In one great example, the story of the Perham farm in the Sandy River Valley is used to illustrate dramatic land-use changes (a familiar story in much of New England) in a way that seems more familiar to the reader. Land was cleared for agriculture, much of that agriculture was abandoned, the original land holding was split among heirs, and some of the farmland reverted back to forest. The authors draw upon personal experiences (author Andrew Barton now owns Perham farm) as well as an extensive review of the scientific literature to describe the complex and varied ecosystems in Maine.
The penultimate chapter is the best example of the integration between detailed storytelling and factual data. The chapter discusses forest variation across the state by describing six ‘snapshots’ of Maine. Six different natural communities are explored through the lens of a land manager or particularly unique species. Then, the chapter closes with a discussion of ecological classification and an explanation for Maine's incredible diversity. Essentially, Maine's geographic features (e.g. ocean, latitude, and elevation) drive the environmental gradient and microclimates.
The authors bring to this book a remarkable knowledge of the state and expertise in forest ecology and land-use research, yet their descriptions of large scientific concepts such as climate dynamics, glaciation, Milankovitch cycles, and ecological classification are accessible and comprehensible. The book is written for readers with a passion for the forested wilderness, an interest in Maine, and a desire to understand the influence of natural disturbances and biophysical geography on ecosystem composition. The endnotes and bibliography are a great resource and reading list on the forests of Maine. Figures and tables are well constructed and compliment the text. For example, there is a map in Chapter 3 that illustrates the different sites for old growth, pollen core, and explorer records that help the reader visualize how forest history is pieced together.
The only disappointment of the book is a lack of information on logging history in the state. There are several anecdotes about the impacts of harvesting and the shift of the timber industry throughout the state as resources were depleted, but a closer examination of the culture created by intensive timber use would make a nice addition to the comprehensive ecological examination presented.
This book would be useful for instructors, graduate students, natural-resource managers, naturalists, and has appeal as a general-interest non-fiction book. It is state-specific, but the concepts translate well to other New England states. The book includes a species list of flora and fauna for the state, tables of the various natural community and classification systems, charts on invasive species, projections of tree range shifts under various climate change scenarios, and a thorough bibliography. These resources, coupled with a smoothly flowing narrative make The Changing Nature of the Maine Woods a valuable contribution to natural history in New England. The allure of the Maine coast is well known, but this book entices the reader to spend time in the forests of this diverse and dynamic state.
Christopher Norment is a professor of environmental science and biology at SUNY College at Brockport. His In the Memory of the Map: A Cartographic Memoir is indeed a memoir, not an autobiography. It gives a flavor of Norment's personal life and professional career through a series of vignettes, interspersed with philosophical reflections. To present an outline, I can do no better than to quote from his introduction:
In the Memory of the Map is arranged as a series of triptychs—three sections of three chapters each. “First Maps” investigates experiences related to the maps I discovered between the ages of eight and eighteen, when I was growing up in the Santa Clara Valley and Santa Cruz Mountains of California. “Middle Maps” explores the maps I encountered during my undergraduate years and into my early thirties, by which time I was married and had finished my master's degree in zoology at Washington State University. The final section describes maps and experiences extending from my early years as a parent until the recent past. Each chapter is built around a map, one which I used extensively and epitomizes the main theme of the chapter. The book ends with a chapter describing a “trip without a map” that I took with a friend in July 2007.
A little more detail on each of those chapters will give the reader an idea of the varied scope of Norment's experiences, all of which contributed to his eventual career.
The first map is of Norment's boyhood backyard and neighborhood, in Saratoga, California. It's accompanied by his sister's map. Both maps were drawn by recollection when Norment and his sister were adults. They are strikingly different, causing Norment the author to speculate on childhood cognitive maps, and possible gender differences.
The second map is a 1966 Chevron road map of California, reflecting the expanding universe of the adolescent Norment. I presume (although my sample size is small) that every boy goes through the same phase, or at least did, back in the days before emaps. Do today's boys pore over Google maps in the same way?
The third map of the first triptych is a backpacker's guide to the high Sierras, foreshadowing Norment's lifelong love of hiking. California boys have an advantage over midwestern boys. Exciting landscapes are near enough by to be attainable, not just dreamable.
The second triptych, Middle Maps, is literally and figuratively the heart of the book. It begins with a map of the Brooks Range, one that Norment discovered in a university library in Mankato, Minnesota. It was probably a U. S. Army map, but, despite an attempt to track it down many years later, he's not sure. Nonetheless, it was that map that inspired him not only to travel in wilderness, but to learn about wilderness. That desire eventually, although it took a while, lead him to his academic career.
And the center of the central triptych was, for me, the very best part of the book: mapping feral burro home ranges in Death Valley. It raises questions of just how the burros map their survival in a very hostile environment. But it also raises questions of the appropriateness of an alien species that has nonetheless settled very well into a natural landscape.
The third chapter in the middle triptych recalls some of Norment's experiences as an Outward Bound instructor in the Oregon Cascades. It is here that he begins teaching mapping to others, further preparation for his ultimate career.
The third triptych is more personal and philosophical than professional. It begins with a chapter contrasting the neighborhoods in which Norment and his family lived in Lawrence, Kansas, and Brockport, New York. The differences in the lay of land, so to speak, strongly influenced how they interacted with the communities. And those contrasted with the “neighborhood” the family encountered during five summers spent as fire wardens in Clay Butte, Wyoming.
The eighth and ninth chapters deal with trips Norment took, individually, with each of his two children: a hike in the Grand Canyon with his daughter and a cross-country drive with his son. In mapping the Grand Canyon hike, he cleverly maps geologic time against his daughter's eighteen years. The trip with his son, from Brockport to “The West”, focuses on the ecological changes encountered, particularly when crossing the 100th meridian into the true West.
The final chapter on a hike without a map affords Norment the opportunity to contemplate how maps, both “real” and mental, influence our perception and experience of the world in which we move.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading the memoir, but I do have two reservations. This memoir is at times professional and at times personal, and I found that some of the personal was too personal, especially regarding Norment's childhood. My second reservation is that occasionally the shifts from one mode to another were too sudden and too frequent. While some parts make good bedtime reading (in the best sense of that term), other parts required greater concentration and more careful study. I found myself somewhat annoyed when, having just settled in to enjoying one mode, the text shifted to another.
In sum, I would recommend the memoir highly to all readers interested in the relation between maps and our perception of our environment. And especially to instructors in GIS courses, who might profit from its very broad perspective, and who might even want to require their students to read some of it.