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  • Remedies for a New West: Healing Landscapes, Histories, and Cultures
  • Gary Paul Nabhan (bio)
Remedies for a New West: Healing Landscapes, Histories, and Cultures Patricia Nelson Limerick, Andrew Cowell and Sharon K. Collinge, editors. 2009. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. Paper, $35.00. ISBN 978-0-8165-2599-7. 320 pages.

Remedies for a New West: Healing Landscapes, Histories, and Cultures extends the concept of restoration from an exclusively ecological context to include social, cultural, linguistic, and community-based economic dimensions. Building on senior editor Patricia Limerick's quarter-century of scholarship and public debate that has redefined the West in refreshing but increasingly complex ways, this anthology continues that exercise, welcoming several new voices to the discussion. Although the book grew from a lecture series at the University of Colorado, which featured some of the best thinkers and writers in that university community, in a very real sense, the community of thought embodied in this book is the greater community of scholars and activists all over the Intermountain West. The themes featured in this collection are being discussed in nearly every small-town coffee shop and faculty lounge in the ten states west of the hundredth meridian and south of Canada.

The editors of this book proposed a unifying theme of restoring environmental and social health to a multicultural region. Some of its various authors hold tightly to this theme, while others use it as a point of departure for discussing case studies that exemplify their own work in the West. In this collection, there are some stunning essays of relevance to more than one discipline. In particular, Sharon Collinge's discussion of "the uncertain promise of restoration" raises ethical and philosophical questions about the practice and premise of ecological restoration that will engage nearly every reader of this journal. Likewise, there is much to be learned by all environmental activists in Hannah Gosnell's "Healing with Howls" which takes a historical look at the Wildland Project's modest proposal to restore continental connectivity to the Southern Rockies by reintroducing carnivores (read more at

I still argue—as I have at gatherings of conservation biologists for over a decade—that basing a continent-wide corridor system on the movements of carnivores alone is more a media stunt for charismatic species than a functional action plan that would work for habitats serving migratory pollinators, seed dispersers, and fish as well. But Gosnell captures the essence of the success of this initiative, which is that Michael Soulé and Dave Foreman's outlandishly grand idea has, to a large degree, already been integrated into bioregional planning by the Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and many grassroots conservation groups.

What is most exciting about this anthology are the cultural dimensions. Linguist Andrew Colwell's discussion of native language revival and John-Michael Rivera's take on recasting Mexican-American presences in the West remind us how broadly the concept of restoration and renewal must extend if we are to live in a truly healthy place. The chapters on remediation of mined lands and endangered species recovery are just as compelling, reminding us that there is a lot of work to be done to remedy what has been undone.

Perhaps the biggest gap in this book is a wound that Patricia Limerick has not only covered in her earlier writings but that has been a regular topic in town halls across the West: healing the urban-rural divide. Nowhere in this book is there sufficient attention to the urban-rural alliances that have formed to revitalize local food systems and to conserve or restore working landscapes to keep watersheds and foodsheds functioning. One of the most remarkable new social developments in the West since this book's release is the Alliance for Conservation through Ranching, which includes dozens of grassroots groups across the West that are focused on policy and practice to keep large working landscapes intact. These grazed wildlands are, more than the national parks which Soulé and Foreman used as their core conservation areas, the true matrix of connectivity that retains most of the biodiversity left in the West. The emergence of the...


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