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The Condor's Shadow: The Loss and Recovery of Wildlife in America Hardcover – March, 1999


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: W.H. Freeman & Company; 1 edition (March 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0716731150
  • ISBN-13: 978-0716731153
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,545,165 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"More than 85 percent of the virgin forests of the United States have been logged, 90 percent of the tallgrass prairies have been plowed or paved, and 98 percent of the rivers and streams have been dammed, diverted, or developed." In the face of this large-scale reshaping of the land, it is small wonder, notes Environmental Defense Fund ecologist David Wilcove, that so many plant, insect, and animal species should be endangered, mostly as a result of habitat loss. Writing in the tradition of Peter Matthiessen, whose book Wildlife in America he cites as an important influence, Wilcove examines the history of extinctions in North America, a history that continues into the present. Wilcove believes that as much as 16 percent of all U.S. flora and fauna are in imminent danger--at least 16,000 species. Obstacles to effective conservation abound, Wilcove writes, among them "a lack of information, a tendency to ignore a problem until it becomes a crisis, a failure to commit adequate resources, and a failure to reward landowners who aid in the restoration of imperiled wildlife." Yet he sees hope in certain conservation efforts, especially those that look beyond individual species to try to preserve whole habitats. This book adds much useful information to the current discussion about the use of public lands and the curtailment of urban and suburban growth, and its conclusions are timely--even urgent. --Gregory McNamee

From Publishers Weekly

Environmental Defense Fund ecologist Wilcove's important report takes readers on a chilling tour of the killing fields of AmericaAthe abused ecosystems where one-third of all U.S. plant and animal species are in immediate danger of extinction or are severely threatened. Written with great clarity, this survey underscores that the much publicized decline of songbird populations is only one tragic example of the assault on nature through habitat destruction, hunting, air and water pollution, disease and the introduction of alien or nonnative species. Modeled after Peter Matthiessen's classic Wildlife in America (1959), Wilcove's eloquent study is written from a more ecological, less historical perspective. With case studies ranging from Florida's Everglades to Hawaii, from the ravaging of once vast grasslands on the central plains to the damage inflicted on rivers, lakes and coastal regions, Wilcove shows how the parts of an ecosystem are interrelated and how disruption of one element affects all components. There is much horror hereAthe ruthless campaigns to eliminate wolves and grizzlies; the near-extinction of the California condor; the ongoing decimation of American elms, beeches, hemlocks, Fraser firs, red sprucesAbut there is also some good news. Wilcove points to ecosystem restoration projects underway around the country, with decidedly mixed results. Tracking the remarkable comebacks of persecuted species like rebounding sea otters, he applauds efforts such as the federal Conservation Reserve Program, which simultaneously prevents erosion and protects vanishing birds by paying farmers to retire erodible soils from crop production and plant them with cover. This engaging report, sprinkled with sensible, targeted solutions to specific problems, is essential reading for concerned nature lovers, as well as a basic resource for environmentalists and policy makers. Photographs by Susan Middleton and David Liittschwager. Author tour.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Wilcove's knack for the well-turned phrase and the personal anecdote makes reading this natural history of wildlife in America compelling. The Condor's Shadow takes decades of scientific observations and current theories, and converts them into gripping tales of survival, extinction, and recovery. This book is a masterful summary of conservation biology's lessons for us - lessons we had better soon grasp or condemn future generations to a simplified, homogenous environment. It communicates the lessons in stories accessible to a general audience with neither patronizing tones nor gross generalizations. For readers with a background in the field, the footnotes and detailed portraits of America's ecosystems make this a peerless reference source. I have begun recommending this book as indispensable background to my students who are about to study environmental and natural resources policy. Also, readers planning to travel to this summer might want to focus especially on a chapter discussing the region they are visiting. I think they will find that Wilcove's insights on the natural history of an area they are visiting will enormously enhance their experience.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 28, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is a keeper. Wilcove & Wilson document the monumental impact modern civilization has had on American wildlife. This eminently readable book also debunks the myth that the first settlers upon this continent lived in a utopian harmony with the land. This book provides an excellent historical overview along with details about a variety of plant and animal species that most people are not familiar with.
The authors also demonstrate that what often passes as a healthy and thriving ecosystem is not. Various aspects of ecosystem interdependence are well-explained. The descriptions of the various ecosystem relationships - and how disruptive simply a new grass species can be was interesting.
I am afraid that what has happened on land is now happening on sea, with more dire consequences. I wish every U.S. citizen would read this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 19, 2002
Format: Paperback
David Wilcove takes the reader on a tour of biodiversity loss and renewal throughout the United States. Each chapter focuses on a region, highlights the unique environmental problems of that region, and comprehensively addresses the extinction of vertebrates in that area. He also showcases those (sadly few) species that have flirted with extinction but which are now on the rebound. The book is both amazingly easy to read and thoroughly researched. Happily, the details of the research are tucked at the book of the book so they don't interrupt the flow of the tale, but are available for to the most exacting reader. Wilcove's passion as a birdwatcher shines through and his personality manifests itself on every page. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the state of conservation in the US.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By "jamo3" on August 29, 2000
Format: Paperback
I found this book a very interesting read, it flowed really well and I found it hard to put down. It was very informative but used enough specific stories of certain animal's plights that it kept it interesting. I found it eye-opening in that I realized things aren't always what they seem. A forest isn't necessarily healthy, or natural to the area, and it doesn't necessarily support the wildlife it is there to protect.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Cal Varnson on March 23, 2009
Format: Paperback
After reading this thought provoking book, I was left with a sense of anger and hostility towards our ancestors that destroyed the earth as well as the money-hungry that currently destroy the habitat for their own desires. Mr. Wilcove does a tremendous job of detailing the history of natural resource abuse in specific areas of the United States and steps being taken to attempt to repair the damage (irreversible?) of mankind in the past 250 years.
His descriptive literary skills allowed me to picture the incredible natural habitats of our country prior to damage created from the over-consuming American public. One wishes he could travel back in time to witness these spectacular scenes and take steps to prevent their demise.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on February 4, 2002
Format: Paperback
I read this book for my AP Environmental class in high school. I thought this was an easy book to read. It talks about the loss and recovery of wildlife in america. It is divided up into different sections for example the east, mid-west, west, and the coastal regions. Condor's shadow can easily be used in research projects and papers. In the back of the book is a handy notes, lit cited, and index sections making it easier for further research. The author does not seem to write with any bias and keeps his point of view until the end of the book. I would recomend this book for both nature lovers and students.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 26, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Wilcove's book is beautifully written in easy yet sophisticated words which paint a picture at environmental disasters and the measures which are being taken to remedy them. It's rich history of the American landscape makes it an interesting read. The knowledge one attains after reading this book makes you want to know more and continue your effort to fit complacently in the web of life.
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By Joseph E. on August 7, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I liked some parts of the book, but it helped he to decide to change my major. It is nothing but gloom and doom. Even when it talks about modern successes it still goes STRAIGHT back to having no hope. The book is interesting, but I didn't like it.
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