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Playing God in Yellowstone: The Destruction of America's First National Park (with an Epilogue by the Author) Paperback – December 17, 1987


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Playing God in Yellowstone:  The Destruction of America's First National Park (with an Epilogue by the Author) + In a Dark Wood: The Fight Over Forests and the Myths of Nature + The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; 1st Harvest/HBJ ed edition (December 17, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156720361
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156720366
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 5.8 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #801,003 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The head of an education program at Yellowstone, Chase charges that the overriding priority of the national park's staff is the safety of the visitors and that current wildlife management stresses an "intact ecosystem," meaning that diseased animals are allowed to roam, among other problems. PW called this "explosive."
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Chase argues convincingly that Yellowstone National Park is slowly being destroyed. He details how the Park Service's preservationist policies have driven most of the native wildlife from the park, while allowing some animals to propagate far beyond the land's capacity to sustain them. He meticulously documents his charges, showing how easily science can be subverted by politics and ideology. Surprisingly, environmentalists are implicated in the destruction. Chase critiques, with devastating effect, the multitude of organizations that have made a religion of protecting the environment, while ignoring the fundamental question of man's place in nature. A challenging, compellingly readable account. Highly recommended. Randy Dykhuis, Grace A. Dow Memorial Lib., Midland, Mich.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Trevor M. on February 19, 2000
Format: Paperback
Chase presents an interesting history of Yellowstone National Park and its human destroyers/protectors. Chase shows the reader how good intentions sometimes do pave the way to bad experiences and worse results. Who could have imagined a national park having fences put up to keep wild animals in? Who would have thought that park rangers would decide that the beavers' dams were too destructive? From my own travels, there is still evidence of beavers and their dams, yet at one point this was nill. That's just one example. Wolves were destroyed because they were seen as a horrible threat, yet now wolves have been reintroduced with brand new controversy. When will we stop playing God? Did we ever not play God in this/and other parks? This is a great read for someone who has interest in national parks and the salvation of these "natural lands." Read it with questions forming, and then go find other sources to answer your questions. This is just one person's research/view point, but Chase gives us a lot to consider and look into. When is it right for humans to interfere? Or is it ever right?
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37 of 43 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 26, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I first learned of this book when I was working as a volunteer fire fighter in Northern California back in 1989. The subject came up one evening and the dinner table polarized between the Park Service/Forestry workers and the "environmentalist" crowd. (I was just helping out because my house was at risk from the fire and didn't fit into either camp.) The environmentalists hated the book while the professional forestry managers tried to explain to them that Chase had a lot of good points. I was curious enough to seek out the book to read and learned a lot. Chase's main point is that you can't have it both ways - if you don't want to manage these areas actively you are going to end up with the destruction of habitat and species you were trying to avoid - and proves his case in detail using the Yellowstone disaster as an example. His more recent book, In a Dark Wood, provides more evidence (including a depressing acount of how the unmanged elk herds in Yellowstone are destroying entire ecosystems...
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Nikitaswlfspirit on September 21, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is a wonderful book if you are a wildlife biologist or avid wildlife observer. The author does bash the Park Service quite severely, but in all honesty - look into the overall history of the Park Service - he isn't off by far. I truly enjoyed his personal point of view. If you are looking for just a history type book, this really isn't it. This is more of a personal account, more than it is strictly history based about the park service/yellowstone. Highly recommended for those of you with an open mind and a deep concern for our wildlife and national parks.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jolly Reader on January 10, 2008
Format: Paperback
This is an epic tale of our evolving understanding of nature and whether and how we should mess with it. The book is not an indictment of environmentalism, as another reviewer suggests. If anything it endorses current environmental view of ecosystem and is an indictment of park service policies that were geared toward tourism instead of science. Chase thinks doing nothing with nature is equal folly--after all we've already done to alter the landscape. A wildlife biologist originally recommended this book to me so I could understand the field better.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Arthur Digbee VINE VOICE on May 19, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This was a big-impact book when released. It remains relevant and important, though outdated in some respects. As the title suggests, Chase accuses the National Park Service of having "destroyed" Yellowstone. That's too strong a charge, but "mismanaged" is certainly true, and Chase documents his case very thoroughly.

Chase first documents the destruction of the Northern Range. The Park Service helped eliminate wolves and favored bison and elk. This harmed not only other ungulates (bighorn sheep, deer, moose) but also beavers and beaver dam communities. He gives little attention to the rest of the park, such as the Thorofare or Belcher regions, or even Yellowstone Lake. He's also focused almost exclusively on mammals, though research since the 1970s also documents effects on songbirds, amphibians, invertebrates, and others.

This destruction stems from the Park Service itself. Yellowstone is managed by a misguided, unprofessional agency staffed by law enforcement rangers. These rangers know nothing of science and do not care to learn more. Research always yields to visitor protection, and science makes up only two percent of the budget.

Chase argues that Park Service policy is supported by environmentalists. Because of a mistaken ideology of preservation that excludes humans from the natural world, the environmentalists want a hands-off approach. This approach, Chase insists, neglects the ubiquitous human impact on nature throughout the Greater Yellowstone Area. However, this part of the argument rests much more on Chase's particular values than on any science or social science, and is the part of the book most amenable to criticism.

The book's greatest strength is its critique of the park bureaucracy.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 23, 1998
Format: Paperback
Mr. Chase has written a book that should be required reading for anyone involved in natural resource management, be they agency professionals, activists, or recreationists. As a wildlife biologist, I found the book fascinating; Mr. Chase is able to investigate aspects of resource management that often go overlooked in today's media. Beyond that, Mr. Chase provides a brutally honest account of the evolution of Park Service policy. Whether you have a PhD in resource management or you love the park on a personal, more intimate level, this book is for you.
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