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Reviewed by:
  • Repairing Paradise: The Restoration of Nature in America's National Parks
  • Dr. Alistair Bath (bio)
Repairing Paradise: The Restoration of Nature in America's National Parks William R. Lowry . 2009. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press. Hardback, $28.95. ISBN: 978-0-8157-0274-0. 287 pages.

Perhaps Lowry begins his book with what appears to be a depressing start regarding the possibility of restoration inside what is regarded as the USA's national park treasures so not to get our hopes up for any chance of significant change. Incremental decision-making reinforcing the status quo, rarely reassessing the problem and little influence of rational comprehensive decision-making seem to plague the possibility of any success. He suggests that in selecting the 4 case studies in his book (Yellowstone, Yosemite, Everglades and Grand Canyon) that if repair efforts are doomed to failure in these locations, what can be realistically possible for other less revered sites? In contrast, I have found in my Parks Canada experiences that it may, in fact, be easier to make significant changes and engage in innovative projects in places out of the public's eye and flagships of the system. As Yellowstone was set aside "as a land of waste and desolation," we could also challenge that these locations are the precious lands set aside for future generations as Lowry suggests. Only hinted by Lowry but definitely worth further discussion is the declining visitation to these protected areas and the inherent danger that parks, already visited by the well-educated minority of society, become even more irrelevant to the general public and more susceptible to development pressures. Changing ethnic make-up of the USA and Canada publics, increasing examples of the nature-deficit disorder within young people and a growing apathy to the protected areas are grave obstacles to restoration efforts that could be given further attention. While the reader may be ready to dig into the case studies, Lowry opens his book with a chapter outlining the key issues in harnessing public involvement and the likelihood of significant change. This discussion I found useful as tools or indicators to improve persuasive communication messages. This first chapter offers valuable insights to NGOs wishing to develop more effective communication strategies to influence policy decision-making processes.

I have lived in Yellowstone contributing to understanding wolf and fire issues there and backpacked in Grand Canyon, and although I have never visited Everglades or Yosemite, they are examples integrated into my outdoor recreation, national parks and protected areas course. I am not sure I agree with Lowry that restoring wolves in Yellowstone was as much an initiative of the National Park Service policy to restore natural conditions, as much as a powerful Endangered Species Act that required the option to be considered, but he does offer an interesting discussion about the issue. He inter-splices his documented history of events and the forces influencing policy decisions with his own personal experiences. Take for example his story of eating a sandwich at Pebble Creek campground and the comment received from a concerned visitor that a grizzly was nearby. For some, such short stories may be seen as nice breaks enriching and adding the flavour through this personal injection by the author; to others, they may be annoying irrelevant sentences that break-up the understanding of an issue. I find Lowry's style a pleasant mix of academic writing to illustrate why change can occur and discussion of indicators with a historical qualitative flavour that conservationists will enjoy.

In Lowry's obvious enthusiasm in sharing his experiences in the national parks, he actually slips and mentions "Yellowstone" when he actually means "Yosemite" in Chapter 3 on page 81. The issue of removing automobiles from Yosemite is debated. While Lowry is very familiar with Yosemite, I and other readers would considerably benefit if there were a few park site maps so we could better follow the references to locations. His detailed discussion is interesting but loses effect without a site map to help guide us through the place and space. A place, of course, becomes much bigger on foot than driving in a vehicle, but how do we restore the...


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pp. 415-416
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