In 1953, birding guru Roger Tory Peterson and noted British naturalist
James Fisher set out on what became a legendary journey - a one hundred day
trek over 30,000 miles around North America. They traveled from
Newfoundland to Florida, deep into the heart of Mexico, through the
Southwest, the Pacific Northwest, and into Alaska's Pribilof Islands. Two
years later, Wild America, their classic account of the trip, was
On the eve of that book's fiftieth anniversary, naturalist Scott Weidensaul retraces Peterson and Fisher's steps to tell the story of wild America today. How has the continent's natural landscape changed over the past fifty years? How have the wildlife, the rivers, and the rugged, untouched terrain fared? The journey takes Weidensaul to the coastal communities of Newfoundland, where he examines the devastating impact of the Atlantic cod fishery's collapse on the ecosystem; to Florida, where he charts the virtual extinction of the great wading bird colonies that Peterson and Fisher once documented; to the Mexican tropics of Xilitla, which have become a growing center of ecotourism since Fisher and Peterson's exposition. And perhaps most surprising of all, Weidensaul finds that much of what Peterson and Fisher discovered remains untouched by the industrial developments of the last fifty years.
Poised to become a classic in its own right, Return to Wild America is a sweeping survey of the natural soul of North America today.
In the early 1950s, just getting to Cape St. Mary's was an
adventure. The Avalon Peninsula is the easternmost prow of North
Americaa vaguely H-shaped chunk of land that is very nearly an island
itself, attached to the rest of Newfoundland by the slenderest of
threads. It is rimmed by sheer cliffs, by beaches of dark quartz-shot
cobblestones and wave-smashed capes. Where there is forest, it is
somber and mossy, spruce and balsam fir hung with long pale sheets of
lichen dangling from the branches like rotting curtains. But much of
the Avalon is tundra, known locally as barrensan open, windswept land
home to flocks of ptarmigan and the southernmost wild caribou herd in
the world, where the trees, if they grow at all, cower in dense,
waist-high thickets known as tuckamore.
Pulitzer Prize finalist Weidensaul retraces Peterson and Fisher's journey and chronicles the changes, both good and bad, in this in depth account. Amongst the bad news is the spread of invasive species, chemical pollution, global warming, species decline, over-logging and urban sprawl (for example in 15 years Pennsylvania has increased its "urban footprint" by 47% while its population has increased by only 2.5%).
(Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
Full Review (789 words).
About the author: Born in 1959, Scott Weidensaul has lived almost all of his life among the long ridges and endless valleys of eastern Pennsylvania, in the heart of the central Appalachians, a landscape that has defined much of his work.
He has written more than two dozen books on natural history, including Living on the Wind: Across the Hemisphere with Migratory Birds (1999), which was one of three finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction. He lives in the Pennsylvania Appalachians.
Some key events in the USA environmental movement:
If you liked Return to Wild America, try these:
A decade ago Philip Connors left work as an editor at the Wall Street Journal and talked his way into a job as one of the last fire lookouts in America. Fire Season is Connors's remarkable reflection on work, our place in the wild, and the charms of solitude.
When Mark Obmascik's twelve-year-old son gets bitten by the climbing bug, he can't resist the opportunity for some father-son bonding. But after their first joint climb, Obmascik decides to scale all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot mountains - and to do them in less than one year.
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