cover image The New Wolves

The New Wolves

Rick Bass. Lyons Press, $18.95 (128pp) ISBN 978-1-55821-697-6

Once again, Bass (The Ninemile Wolves) returns to the controversial theme of wolf reintroduction to weave a lyrical narrative along the boundaries of the nature essay, character portraiture and eco-philosophy. Relying on contemporary anecdotes and personal remembrances that are full of sentiment but never sentimental, Bass discusses the government's efforts to reestablish the Mexican wolf population in three Southwestern states. His concern centers on the dramatic environmental changes that will greet this previously captive, zoo-bred remnant of the great wolf packs that roamed the territory for thousands of years. More than a century of overgrazing by cattle has changed the ecology to such an extent that Bass wonders if the species is adaptable enough to successfully regenerate in its former homelands. Bass, a staunch environmentalist, has sympathy for all the competing factions in this controversial equation. He doesn't deal in stereotypes. Ranchers, cowboys, Indians, hunters, survivalists, scientists, government agents and idealistic student activists are all treated with respect and understanding. The writer moves easily among the contending parties, with his keen eye on the land that holds and molds them all. He mines the layers of political, social, economic, cultural and ethical relevance with a unique poetic voice, and, in the end, it is the wolves who most vigorously capture his imagination and fascination. This is a ballad of a book, a hymn to the gloriously defiant power of survival that transcends the single issue that is its putative subject. Eight-page color insert, not seen by PW. (Oct.)