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Wetlands of North America.

Wetlands of North America, In/William Niering with photography by Bates Littlehales. Thomasson-Grant, Inc., One Morton Dr., Suite 500, Charlottesville, VA 22901 (1991). Large format, full color, 160 pp. Hardcover $39.95; softcover $24.95.

Just when I had begun to think big pages and color pictures inevitably meant silly and sentimental text, along comes a book to prove that publishers have not performed some kind of literary lobotomy. Wetlands is one of those books that can introduce us to a subject of raging controversy without replacing true sensitivity with propaganda.

In some ways, this book is a model of how to divide the labor between photographer and writer. Niering is content to let his photographer convey the moods and colors. He doesn't try to reinvent the photo in the proverbial 10,000 words. The text has its own Life, a lively interpretation of the many values science has revealed in our vanishing wetlands, both coastal and inland. Niering has a gift for concrete explanations whether he is telling us about the wild population crashes of muskrats or how the Corps of Engineers decided that preserving wetlands along the Charles River in Massachusetts would cost $617,000 a year and bring benefits of $2.4 million. (This author's willingness to say something good about an agency that has become a sacred scapegoat is evidence of his fair reporting.)

Niering's credibility stands out among others such as President Bush, who campaigned to be an environmental president with the pledge of "no net loss of wetlands." We have since learned from Budget Director Dick Darman that "(the president) didn't say that. He read what was given to him in a speech." Bush has found out from farm and real estate developers that many people still feel wetlands stand in the way of progress. Next to Niering's book, such political doubletalk seems like the kind of quagmire that must be dispensed with.
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Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Kaufman, Wallace
Publication:American Forests
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jul 1, 1992
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