Engineering Eden: A Violent Death, a Federal Trial, and the Struggle to Restore Nature in Our National Parks

Engineering Eden: A Violent Death, a Federal Trial, and the Struggle to Restore Nature in Our National Parks


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The award-winning story of the century-and-half-long attempt to control nature in the American wilderness, told through the prism of a tragic death at Yellowstone—now in paperback

In the summer of 1972, 25-year-old Harry Eugene Walker hitchhiked away from his family’s northern Alabama dairy farm to see America. Nineteen days later he was killed by an endangered grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park. The ensuing civil trial, brought against the US Department of the Interior for alleged mismanagement of the park’s grizzly population, emerged as a referendum on how America’s most beloved wild places should be conserved. Two of the twentieth century’s greatest wildlife biologists testified—on opposite sides.

Moving across decades and among Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier, and Sequoia National Parks, author and former park ranger Jordan Fisher Smith has crafted an epic, emotionally wrenching account of America’s fraught, century-and-a-half-long attempt to remake Eden—in the name of saving it.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781615195459
Publisher: The Experiment
Publication date: 03/19/2019
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 424
Sales rank: 321,488
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x (d)

About the Author

Jordan Fisher Smith worked for twenty-one years as a park ranger in California, Wyoming, Idaho, and Alaska. The author of Nature Noir and narrator of the documentary Under Our Skin, he has written for Discover magazine, The New Yorker, Men’s Journal,, and many other outlets. Visit him at

Jack E. Davis won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for History for The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea.

Table of Contents

Foreword Jack E. Davis xiii

Prologue xix

Part I American Eden

1 Los Angeles 3

2 American Eden 9

3 Yosemite and Yellowstone 17

4 Appalachian Spring 25

5 Frank 39

6 The Balance of Nature 50

7 Berkeley 56

8 Claypool 63

9 Smitty 74

10 Trout Creek 83

Part II Natural Regulation

11 The Big Kill 91

12 Starker 101

13 Prometheus 118

14 Observable Artificiality in Any Form 126

15 Reconstruction 131

16 Cole 142

17 The Night of the Grizzlies 151

18 Natural Control 161

19 Bad Blood 164

20 Bear Management Committee 177

21 Firehole 183

22 The Temptation of Starker Leopold 195

23 Natural Regulation 201

Part III Take It Easy

24 Last Straws 211

25 Take It Easy 218

26 Old Faithful 224

27 The Search for Harry Walker 229

Part IV Human Nature

28 Martha Shell 239

29 B-1 252

30 The Disciple 262

31 The Verdict 273

32 The Appeal 288

Epilogue 306

Afterword 324

Key Figures 332

Acknowledgments 340

Notes 344

Index 368

Interview with Jordan Fisher Smith 383

About the Author 392

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