In the West, shortsighted human self-interest has resulted in devastating environmental losses. The fur trade decimated beaver populations, and streams and wetland ecosystems deteriorated. Though most mining ceased by the late 1920s, water running from the Pacific Mine nearly a century later still carried ten times the lead level standard set by the federal Clean Water Act. Where grazing depleted native bunchgrasses, fire-prone cheatgrass grew in its place. Migrating from Idaho streams, salmon once reached the ocean in ten to fourteen days. Now it takes fifty or more. In 2016, a snowstorm blew a flock of snow geese off course. They landed on contaminated water, and about three thousand died.
Author Niels S. Nokkentved takes a fresh look at environmental challenges affecting Northwest residents. His essays examine cultural conflicts over resource extraction, threats to watersheds from abandoned mines, wolf recovery in the northern Rocky Mountains, the lingering effects of livestock grazing on western rangelands, and the rapidly disappearing sage grouse. They discuss the importance of forest fires, the value of beavers, the failed promises of salmon hatcheries, the reasons behind the decline of the timber industry in the Pacific Northwest, and how unlikely allies learned to set aside their differences in order to resolve long-standing disputes.
Nokkentved’s goal is to encourage people to think like a mountain—in other words, to consider the long-term consequences. He shares his connection to each concern as well as his own evidence-based perspective. He believes that it most profits society—collectively and as individuals—when people respect the balance of nature, and he wants to draw others to the same conclusion.
Niels S. Nokkentved has won awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists, and a C. B. Blethen award for distinguished investigative journalism. He spent twenty years as a newspaper reporter and eight years as a writer, photographer, and editor for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. He is the author of three other books.
“Showcases an author deeply devoted to the preservation of the natural world…This book should be particularly valuable to anyone interested in the decision-making process governing these areas, as Nokkentved’s reporting is well researched and documented.”—Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences
“Nokkentved does an exceptional job of translating the scientific and political debate about some of the West’s major public lands issues.”—George Wuerthner, author of Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy
“An excellent primer on the nature of environmental issues in the American West. A read through all of the cases he explores reveals the importance and complexity of challenges we face.”—National Parks Traveler
Listen to the author’s interview on NPR.
Illustrations / maps / notes / bibliography / index / 258 pages (2019)