Books: Rewilding the West

Richard Manning rails against “map and camera” prairie restoration.

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.


The northern Montana prairie is not exactly inviting: It gets only 10 inches of rain a year, and the winters are Siberian. The region, known as the Missouri Breaks, was once a sea of grass supporting countless elk, bison, wolves, and grizzlies. But in the 19th century, humans evicted the megafauna in favor of cattle that have, as environmental journalist Richard Manning puts it, “vacuumed every blade of grass from the landscape.” In Rewilding the West, Manning tells the grim story of the Breaks and offers a prescription for turning the worn-out region into a pristine, profitable Yellowstone of the plains.

A private conservation group hopes to restore the Breaks by creating a 3.5 million-acre preserve open to bird-watchers, mountain bikers, and sport hunters. But Manning rails against map-and-camera preservation, which he sees as elitist. Instead, he advocates that the preserve become a self-sustaining grassland that will use carbon sequestration to protect prairie and reap profits from large-scale bison and elk hunting. A tenacious reporter, Manning is a guy with a passion for grass, and that’s a good thing. Rewilding the West can be preachy, but it reminds us of a forgotten place that deserves more attention.

THE END...

of our fiscal year is Thursday, June 30, and we have a much larger fundraising gap than we can easily manage with only days left to go.

Right now is no time to come up short: If you value the hard-hitting, democracy-protecting, justice-advancing journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us keep charging as hard as we possibly can with a much-needed and much-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

THE END...

of our fiscal year is Thursday, June 30, and we have a much larger fundraising gap than we can easily manage with only days left to go.

Right now is no time to come up short: If you value the hard-hitting, democracy-protecting, justice-advancing journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us keep charging as hard as we possibly can with a much-needed and much-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate