Friday, January 03, 2014

A new book, a Front treasure

Let me highly recommend Dr. John Vollersten's new book on the Rocky Mountain Front: "Landscape and Legacy," (340 pp., Sweetgrass Books, Helena, $19.95).
It is a fascinating compilation of all things "Front" from that area's most knowledgeable writers on the history, culture, wildlife, and native peoples.
Despite its length, the book is a quick read, particularly for anyone interested in this scenic stretch of the Rockies that rises directly from the Great Plains in a strip running about 150 miles from Marias Pass near East Glacier Park to Rogers Pass east of Lincoln.
In addition to four chapters written by Vollersten, there are 13 chapters written by these experts.
They range from former Lewis and Clark National Forest supervisor Gloria Flora, who writes about her decision to protect this area to Jim Posewitz, a former Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks official on the conservation ethic and hunting there.
My favorite chapter was MSU emeritus wildlife professor Harold Picton's, "Elk and Other Wildlife," that is as good a history of the Sun River Game Range and Bob Marshall country that I've read.
Also, I really liked chapters by Mary Strachan Scriver's, "Taking Refuge on the East Front," who describes the "literati" who converged on the Front like Joseph Howard Kinsey Howard and A.B. Guthrie, and Bill Cunningham's description of the many wild units within its boundaries.
In an unconventional and highly entertaining style Mike Thompson covers his mountain goat research.
Vollersten's chapter on the Indian tribes of the Front rather than the Blackfeet is eye-opening.
There are several chapters on the Front's grizzlies.
The book champions the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act that is now before Congress that would divvy up the Front between wilderness and a new category --- Conservation Management Areas and help fight weed infestation.  Choteau attorney Stoney Burk does a good job describing how a coalition to write the bill came together and how it aims to preserve wild lands while getting the cooperation of those who would otherwise oppose wilderness preservation.
I'm not a fan of the bill because of its stingy wilderness designations and because I think the stage for the negotiations was far too local given that these are NATIONAL lands.
However, for anyone interested in the Front, this is a must have book for its history and back-grounding.

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