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After the Grizzly

After the Grizzly: Endangered Species and the Politics of Place in California

Peter S. Alagona
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    After the Grizzly
    Book Description:

    Thoroughly researched and finely crafted,After the Grizzlytraces the history of endangered species and habitat in California, from the time of the Gold Rush to the present. Peter S. Alagona shows how scientists and conservationists came to view the fates of endangered species as inextricable from ecological conditions and human activities in the places where those species lived.Focusing on the stories of four high-profile endangered species-the California condor, desert tortoise, Delta smelt, and San Joaquin kit fox-Alagona offers an absorbing account of how Americans developed a political system capable of producing and sustaining debates in which imperiled species serve as proxies for broader conflicts about the politics of place. The challenge for conservationists in the twenty-first century, this book claims, will be to redefine habitat conservation beyond protected wildlands to build more diverse and sustainable landscapes.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95441-0
    Subjects: Environmental Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. 1-11)

    One hot morning in the spring of 2004, I found myself in a distant corner of the Mojave Desert, standing in a field surrounded by saltbush and sage, feeling disoriented, overdressed, and a little embarrassed. A biologist named Peggy Wood had agreed to let me tag along with her while she tracked a small population of desert tortoises in a fenced area to which they had been moved to make way for the construction of an automobile test track. Peggy had handed me a radio telemetry receiver and an antenna and explained how to use the two devices to locate...

  5. CHAPTER ONE The Land of the Bears
    (pp. 12-41)

    Californians are surrounded by bears. Most of these creatures are not the coy, mischievous black bears that prowl Yosemite campgrounds after dark, raiding ice chests and eating bologna sandwiches out of “wildlife resistant” trash bins. No, these are massive, fearless, humpbacked, barrel-chested, dagger-clawed grizzly bears—and they are everywhere. They lurk behind picnic tables in city parks, patrol the entrances to government buildings, gnash their teeth next to bus stops, and splash in fountains alongside children. Sometimes they wear plastic pink leis and funny hats. During an hour’s walk on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley, an intrepid...

  6. CHAPTER TWO A New Movement
    (pp. 42-68)

    Monarch’s arrival in San Francisco in 1889 captivated the city, but his death in 1911 went almost unnoticed. If his story had ended there, this would have been an anticlimactic conclusion to the life of a California icon, but the great bear’s journey was far from complete. During the preceding decades, popular enthusiasm for recreational hunting and natural history museums had fostered advances in the art and science of taxidermy, and by the time of Monarch’s death, expert technicians were capable of preserving animal remains almost in perpetuity. A local purveyor named Vernon Shephard accepted the job. He used part...

  7. CHAPTER THREE The Official Landscape
    (pp. 69-95)

    In September of 1916, less than two years after the Flint-Cary referendum, Joseph Grinnell and his student Tracy Storer published an essay titled “Animal Life as an Asset of the National Parks” in the journalScience. Their paper served as a manifesto for the next generation of Berkeley circle conservationists. According to Grinnell and Storer, the national parks offered more than just sublime scenery, healthful recreation, and a chance to view big game. They were also some of the last sanctuaries where visitors could observe wild animals and ecological processes relatively free from human influence. They provided opportunities to preserve...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR The Laws of Nature
    (pp. 96-121)

    On December 28, 1973, President Richard Nixon addressed a festive crowd of Republicans and Democrats who had gathered during Congress’s holiday recess to witness his signing of the federal Endangered Species Act. “Nothing is more priceless and worthy of preservation,” Nixon declared, “than the rich array of animal life with which our country has been blessed.” His administration had worked with states and nongovernmental organizations to attract bipartisan support for a law that would “provide the kind of management tools needed to act early enough to save vanishing species.” According to the Michigan representative John Dingell, “scarcely a voice [had]...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE The California Condor: From Controversy to Consensus
    (pp. 122-148)

    On Easter Sunday 1987, a team of scientists and Fish and Wildlife Service officials finally caught up with AC-9. Adult condor number nine, otherwise known as Igor, had developed an uncanny ability to evade his would-be captors. The team had pursued the seven-year-old male for months and lured him with regular offerings of fresh meat. But Igor, who had been captured and released twice before, refused to take the bait. It was the biologist Peter Bloom’s job to catch the wary bird safely. Between recurring nightmares about all of the things that could go wrong—failed equipment, an injured colleague,...

  10. CHAPTER SIX The Mojave Desert Tortoise: Ambassador for the Outback
    (pp. 149-174)

    In the summer of 1989, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service used its emergency authority to list the Mojave desert tortoise—a docile, long-lived reptile and common backyard pet throughout much of the American Southwest—as endangered in California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona (see figure 15). Desert tortoises spend much of their lives hibernating in subterranean burrows, but after springtime rains they emerge to roam across millions of acres of federal lands that include national parks, monuments, recreational sites, and wilderness areas, as well as military bases, rangelands, and infrastructure projects from pipelines, power lines, and freeways to dams, wind...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN The San Joaquin Kit Fox: The Flagship Fox
    (pp. 175-197)

    In 1888, C. Hart Merriam published the first description of a new type of fox he had identified, based on a specimen from San Bernardino County in inland Southern California. “It is not a little surprising,” Merriam wrote, “that so large a mammal as a fox, inhabiting so well explored a region as California, should have escaped notice till the present time.” The animal was a kit fox, one of three varieties native to the state, and it had escaped notice for several reasons. Kit foxes often live in flat, arid landscapes that are relatively unenticing for most naturalists. They...

  12. CHAPTER EIGHT The Delta Smelt: Water Politics by Another Name
    (pp. 198-224)

    In 2007 the national debate over endangered species and habitat conservation once again turned to California’s Great Central Valley. This time it was not about iconic condors, amiable tortoises, or charismatic little foxes living on rangelands, oil fields, and vacant city lots. At risk was the single most important natural resource in the American West, and the culprit, according to most media reports, was a lackluster two-inch fish (see figure 17).

    The delta smelt is endemic to the California Bay-Delta, the largest and most productive estuary on the West Coast of the United States. This is where the state’s two...

    (pp. 225-234)

    Endangered species advocates engage in a wide variety of activities designed to prevent extinctions and promote recoveries—from enforcing trade regulations to eradicating exotic species to breeding animals in captivity. But in the era of conservation biology, creating and expanding protected areas has become the preferred approach for most wildlife agencies and organizations in the United States. As a result, protected areas have increased in number and proliferated in new environments. Early national parks and wilderness areas encompassed some of the country’s most picturesque landscapes, but most were alpine zones of rock and ice. Decades later, the addition of more...

  14. NOTES
    (pp. 235-280)
    (pp. 281-300)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 301-323)