Discovering the Unknown Landscape: A History of America's Wetlands

Ann Vileisis, Author
Ann Vileisis, Author Island Press $40 (445p) ISBN 978-1-55963-314-7
Paperback - 433 pages - 978-1-55963-315-4
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Whether seen as ""bugs and mud"" or as breeding grounds for countless species of fish, birds and other organisms, wetlands have borne much of the brunt of our development as a nation, argues environmental historian and naturalist Vileisis. Here, her painstaking research into the changing ways people thought, wrote about and thereby legislated wetlands throughout the many stages of the country's development makes a compelling case for their central role in our history. Vileisis takes us through our many uses of wetlands resources, from the filling of Boston's marshes, early rice-milling dams and the travels in search of ""`rare and Useful productions'"" of 18th-century botanist William Bartram, to the ""great Florida land giveaway"" of the 1870s and the over-logging of Southern swamps. Nearly two thirds of the book deals with our own century, including the formation of the Army Corp of Engineers (and their rise to power in controlling wetlands alteration) and the enactment of the National Environmental Policy Act in the late 1960s, as well as the expanding role of concerned citizens in policy making after WWII. Along the way, Vileisis shows how America's explosive population growth and subsequent housing development decimated the habitats of waterfowl as well as those of other species. In her fine book, Vileisis provides a comprehensive account of a not so slow-motion natural disaster. Illustrations. (Oct.)
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