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Reading the Forested Landscape: A Natural History of New England.

by Tom Wessels, etchings by Brian D. Cohen, $17.95.

The Countryman Press, 1999.

* When you head for the New England woods, don't leave home without this book. No matter how familiar your woodland walk may be, with Wessels as your guide you'll discover things you never saw before.

Each chapter begins with a full-page etching of a forest scene that contains subtle clues about the site's history. Smaller etchings interspersed within the text come from the original image and focus on particular objects, unfolding a fascinating story of the woodland's history, as if it were written on the land. Old stumps, downed trees, and stone walls take on new meaning. The age and cause of tree scars and the size of rocks in stone walls tell of past land use, while the variety of tree species and sizes links the site to changing patterns of agriculture and industry. This is science and storytelling at its best.

Each chapter ends with "A Look Back," which puts the story in broader historical context. Wessels highlights events such as the Great Hurricane of 1938, the near extinction and recovery of the beaver, and the spread of chestnut blight. A final chapter, "Forests of the Future," considers possible future problems resulting from new human impacts, exotic blights, and changes in global climate and pollution levels.

Although focused on New England, this delightful book will prove useful in any forested region. It suggests exciting new ways to read the landscape as living history. Budding naturalists will find use for this text in schools and colleges, and the seasoned forester, woodland owner, and curious hiker will use it for insight and inspiration.
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Reidel, Carl
Publication:American Forests
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 2000
Words:277
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