Book Reviews


David Knibb
Eastern Washington University Press, 2008, 284 pages

CLEARLY, NATIONWIDE, THE PUBLIC has strong feelings about species management. Grizzly Wars focuses on grizzlies, but the bear’s recovery parallels and intertwines with dozens of other species. Sadly, the very network of bureaucracy dedicated to resolving, managing, promoting and ensuring that endangered species live on—be it spotted owls or wolves—is a log jam hindered further by special interests, politics, and sue-happy environmental groups. No joke, the book could easily be renamed Grizzly Wars: A Study of Invisible Anchors.

To be fair, Knibb stresses this is not a logging issue, a Republican issue, a state’s rights issue, or something that needs to be handled in the court system. The notion of invisible anchors shows up early and continues as the book traces the decades of recovery efforts. He unravels the relationship between Canadian and US bear populations. He reports on the years and years of studies and field tests to gauge grizzly populations, alongside the ebb and flow of public opinion. He writes about individual efforts on both sides of the issue, and significant happenings with far-reaching consequences.

This well-written book exposes what’s right and what’s wrong within species management, and Knibb is not afraid to point out some ironic details. For example, in an effort to have grizzly recovery efforts revised or redraw the lines of a certain recovery area, a rogue rancher might kill one or two grizzlies. Sadly the rogue rancher doesn’t seem to understand that quotas are one of the main components in delisting a species, so his action is actually doubling the efforts in the recovery area he wants left alone.

Spokane is one of a few epicenters for grizzly recovery due to our relative location to the North Cascades, Cabinet-Yaak, Bitterroots, and Selkirks. This book is timely, relevant and local (printed at EWU press). Frankly, it ought to be required reading for any of the area’s biology programs, as well as the outdoor recreation programs. Yes, it’s that good.

Jon Jonckers

Lawrence Kreisman and Glenn Mason
Timber Press, 2007, 398 beautiful pages

IF YOU ARE A FAN OF the Arts and Crafts movement, you want Lawrence Kreisman and Glenn Mason’s The Arts and Crafts Movement in the Pacific Northwest. Though something of a scholarly work, the text is an eminently readable look at the Arts and Crafts movement in Washington and Oregon.

The authors weave a historical tapestry of Washington and Oregon through the lens of the Arts and Crafts influenced art and architecture of the early 20th century. In doing so, they explore the people and businesses, prominent and obscure, which sustained the movement. Some threads of this tapestry come from the writers of the day, reproduced in ad, newspaper and magazine copy, all promoting the beauty, utility, and simplicity of Arts and Crafts wares.

Another thread of the tapestry is the nearly 400 images. Most publications chronicling the movement discarded their photographs, requiring that many of the images be reproduced from archived publications. There was little effort to save photos illustrating the movement, though the artisans and their supporters were consciously charting new ground, no longer looking backwards for inspiration, instead looking to inspire with their creations both “useful and beautiful.”

The text illustrates how regional artisans and craftsmen (and women) promulgated the joys arising from worthwhile labor. The manifestations of that labor—buildings, furniture, lighting fixtures, pottery and the other decorative arts—were to adorn our dwellings, workplaces, and social spaces, enhancing our lives with a discernible combination of beauty and utility.

The lasting joy of this book is the light it sheds on our surroundings. Eyes will be opened to a new Spokane and Inland Northwest. You’ll see Kirtland Cutter’s inspirations in the Swiss chalet style, the Mission style’s stucco and the warmth it’s meant to evoke in the Davenport Hotel. You’ll see basalt and river rock and large timbers as part of an early sustainability movement, all fostered by Arts and Crafts thinking. If you are a fan of Arts and Crafts, you’ll love this book.

Bradley Bleck

Dan Aadland
University of Nebraska Press, November 3, 2008, 260 pages

SKETCHES FROM THE RANCH presents a series of vignettes describing a year of experiences on Aadland’s small Montana ranch. Though in the book only one year passes, frequent digressions describe experiences of his earlier life and that of his predecessors on the land; he describes the evolution of ranch life. In the early days “ranching” included subsistence farming with the raising and sale of cattle serving mostly to provide cash for staples that couldn’t be grown on the farm, salt, sugar, and coffee, or to replace worn out equipment. Aadland also describes the evolution of power on the range. Locally raised horses and oxen as beasts of burden powered the first wave of settlers. The next era saw draft horses imported from Europe being bred and used for plowing and pulling wagons. Then by the 1950’s, the transition to use of petroleum fueled tractors and trucks was finally complete.

Refreshingly, Aadland does not romanticize ranching and the mythical “cowboy.” Rather, he honestly portrays modern ranching as a business that often requires the cowboy to have a “day job” and to work long hours to keep the ranch going. Using his own circumstances, he acknowledges that the majority of ranches are not the multi-thousand acre units of corporate cattle factories. Today most ranches are units of a few hundred acres, at most a thousand or so, operated by families.
Aadland provides an unexpected environmental slant to ranching. Proper management of grazing lands can emulate the conditions of pre-western European influence. Using grassland for cattle, horses and other grazers and browsers can prevent attempts to use marginal lands for farming. They can produce human food directly from land best left unfarmed.

Sketches from the Ranch became a difficult read for me; the childhood memories triggered, demanded pauses to ponder my own life. Anyone with a history of time “on the farm” will no doubt encounter the same circumstances. For the uninitiated Sketches accurately portrays the ranchers life.

Stan Miller


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