Grassland: The History, Biology, Politics,and Promise of the American Prairie

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In Grassland, journalist and nature writer Richard Manning takes a critical look at the largest and most misunderstood biome in our country, the grasslands of the American West and Midwest, which encompass a full 40 percent of the land. Manning traces the expansion of America and explains how, through farming and industry, we have habitually imposed our romantic ideals onto the land with little interest in understanding and learning from that land. The repercussions of our abuses of the grassland systems run far ...
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1995 Hard cover First edition. 1st Printing New in new dust jacket. Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. With dust jacket. 320 p. Audience: General/trade.

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Overview

In Grassland, journalist and nature writer Richard Manning takes a critical look at the largest and most misunderstood biome in our country, the grasslands of the American West and Midwest, which encompass a full 40 percent of the land. Manning traces the expansion of America and explains how, through farming and industry, we have habitually imposed our romantic ideals onto the land with little interest in understanding and learning from that land. The repercussions of our abuses of the grassland systems run far and deep. The grass provides not only our last connection to the natural world, but a vital link to our prehistoric roots, and to our history and culture, from roads, railroads, and agriculture to the literature of the plains. Over the course of the book, which is framed by the story of a remarkable elk whose mysterious wanderings seem to reclaim his ancestral plains, Manning looks back 12,000 years to this continent's earliest settlers, and farther, to know more about our native - and long extinct - mammals and why they perished and the invaders survived. He considers our attempts over the last 200 years to control unpredictable land through plowing, grazing, and landscaping. He introduces botanists and biologists who are restoring native grasses, literally follows the first herd of buffalo restored to wild prairie, and even visits Ted Turner's progressive - and controversial - Montana ranch.

The past, present, and future story of the Western and Midwestern grasslands--40% of our country--and of our own place in this land. In addressing one of today's hottest environmental topics, award-winning journalist Manning shows how the grass is not only our last connection to the natural world but a vital link to our own prehistoric roots.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Our culture's disrespect for grasslands has produced an environmental catastrophe, charges the author. By allowing overgrazing on public lands, our government is wiping out an ecosystem as vital as the Brazilian rain forests. In this sweeping exploration of the prairie, Manning (A Good House) makes an eloquent plea to restore it. Cattle, loss of habitat, fragmentation, climate change and invasion of exotic species have wrought severe damage. Manning takes us from Ted Turner's bison ranch in Montana to Wes Jackson's Land Institute in Kansas; from the Sandos ranch in Nebraska to the Walnut Creek Preserve in Iowa, which is being restored to native tall-grass prairie. Any restoration, he stresses, must include bison. The author urges that we change grazing practices, arguing that ideally there would be bison grazing on open ranges, with cattle as a second choice-but only on large tracts. He states that we need to match agriculture to conditions, instead of remaking the conditions. A thoughtful and provocative look at prairie ecology. (Sept.)
Booknews
The author, an award-winning journalist and nature writer, looks at the grasslands of the American West and Midwest, tracing the region from pre-history to the present. He discusses attempts to control the land and efforts to restore native grasses and wild herds of buffalo, and visits Ted Turner's progressive and controversial Montana ranch. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Brenda Grazis
Manning vividly depicts the most catastrophic environmental disaster in our history--the devastation of North American grassland--in a fascinating narrative of the successive assaults by imported livestock, yeoman farmers, monoculture, corporate farming, and exotic grasses that have irrevocably degraded a once exquisitely balanced biome. Fifty million bison, which thrived year-round solely on prairie grasses, were slaughtered and gradually replaced by 45.5 million head of climatically unsuited cattle that now consume 70 percent of U.S. grain production, thereby necessitating the dedication of vast acreages to cattle fodder. Among the consequences of this agricultural system are soil erosion, pesticide and fertilizer pollution, aquifer depletion, and the loss of biodiversity", and Manning provides disturbing statistics that gauge their magnitude. Further, he assesses the culpability of governmental agencies abetting factional interests and discusses current efforts, notably on the Ted Turner ranch, to reinstate the bison, and by the Nature Conservancy to reestablish and preserve native grassland tracts.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670853427
  • Publisher: Viking Penguin
  • Publication date: 9/28/1995
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.26 (w) x 9.28 (h) x 1.12 (d)

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 13, 2010

    Fantastic book about the American Prairie/ West

    This is a great book that presents where we have been, where we are and where we might be headed in the American prairie and the American West. He includes a little bit of everything to paint a picture of this often forgot about place. Every person interested in farming, ranching, politics of place or environmentalism should read this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2002

    Critique of the land owners

    Manning emphasizes the disappearance of the buffalo as maybe the most important fact of the last 150 years in the Plains states. He criticizes the actions of both the farmers and ranchers who have tamed the grasslands-the ranchers by placing the first fences and by farmers for digging up precious grasslands. Manning has his own saved prairie-land and hunts there. Why not? That is what the land was for 10,000 years. It is a book that will make people get out of their chairs and into the fight for the environment.

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