America\’s National Refuges
by Noel Grove
This National Geographic book is about the National Wildlife Refuges. When it was written there were about 400 of them, in almost every sate. They are areas set aside specifically for wildlife- not recreation or sightseeing. Yet many allow visitors- hiking, limited hunting, even camping. Although a few- Alaska a pointed example- have vast areas of wilderness untouched by man, most of them are closely managed with areas periodically burned to restore certain plant species, or farmland strictly monitored to leave stubble for migrating waterfowl to forage in or work done to restore depleted wetlands. The book describes numerous refuges that the author visited, and tells descriptive stories about the various, sometimes conflicting ways they are run (quite individually, it turns out). Some of the reading is a bit dry, when it veers into politics and management details, but most of it interested me- the layout of the land, its purpose, the animals it strives to protect. There are passages about Florida Key deer, whooping cranes, bison, ruffed grouse, tule elk, longhorn cattle, alligators and more. There are stories of mistakes, pollution, overhunting, battles over land rights and efforts to educate the public. There are stories of success- wildlife multiplying and returning to lands they had forsaken. There is the comeback of bald eagles and peregrine falcons, the questionable future of Hawaiian monk seals. Wolves are barely mentioned as they had not yet been introduced back into the lower \’48. Photographs are by Bates Littlehales. They\’re very good, crisp and vivid.
The book is divided into five sections by the different habitat types and areas: prairies, coastal lands and islands, Eastern forests, the interior West, Alaska. Mostly graced by pictures, but the text is a decent portion too.
Rating: 3/5 208 pages, 1984