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Where the Buffalo Roam: Restoring America's Great Plains Paperback – November 15, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0226510965 ISBN-10: 0226510964 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 242 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (November 15, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226510964
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226510965
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,389,727 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Matthews chronicles a bold plan by Frank and Deborah Popper, professors at Rutgers University and experts in land-use planning and geography, to return millions of acres in the ten Great Plains states to their natural condition. This plan is one way of solving a problem that has existed and worsened over 100 years, pushing the prairies beyond their ecological potential. The question, Could this plan ever really be accepted? seems easy to answer given the political ramifications and the sentiment of local inhabitants. This book helps the reader to think beyond these stumbling blocks. It will be sought by those concerned with environmental issues and readers with an interest in the Great Plains.
-Mary J. Nickum, Fish and Wildlife Reference Svce., Bethesda, Md.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

A colorful and lively look at the controversy surrounding the plan of a New Jersey academic couple to return vast sections of the American Great Plains to their original prairie state. For Frank and Deborah Popper (a land-use planner and a geologist, respectively), the writing is on the wall as far as the semi-arid Plains are concerned. Stretching from Canada through Montana and the Dakotas to Oklahoma and Texas, the area, explains Matthews (Nonfiction Writing/Princeton), was settled by hardy sod- busters late in the last century after the Indians and buffalo had been successfully removed. The newcomers' determined tilling of the prairie soil and heavy grazing by their livestock opened the door to dust-bowl conditions whenever drought occurred, while persistent water demands depleted the aquifer to a fraction of its preagricultural reserve. With the resulting ecological stress readily apparent today, Matthews indicates, radical action seems necessary. The author follows the Poppers on several of their many forays into hostile country, chronicling their rise in notoriety from the inception of their ideas in 1987. In Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Montana, in talks before large audiences and in more casual encounters on the main streets of dying towns, the response is always the same: stiff resistance and shock in the face of apparently undeniable facts. The Poppers' plan for a ``Buffalo Commons''--to be created from dozens of distressed counties in ten Plains states--has created a big stir out west, so that so much of Matthews's report turns not on their ideas but on the couple themselves, in public and private, with media attention and personal responses to them figuring prominently. Eminently readable as a study of personalities and regional differences, and as a popular account of a provocative proposal that may herald a sea change in American land-planning. (Four photographs; one map.) -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Stephens on June 24, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book held my constant attention from the first time I picked it up. Ms. Matthews gives a very even-handed account of what I call "The Dilemma on the Great Plains." She thoughtfully explains the Buffalo Commons plan for the restoration of the plains. She introduces Frank and Deborah Popper, New Jersey academics from Rutgers University, who came up with the Buffalo Commons plan. I was riveted because I once lived in South Dakota, near the Montana and Wyoming borders and could empathize with the issue. The Poppers came up with the Buffalo Commons idea in the late 1980s as a way to "save" the plains. It has been very controversial, to say the least. The plains way of life and the emotions of the issue are handled brilliantly by Ms. Matthews. I was able to see both sides throughout the book. This issue has an importance to our nation. Read this book to know the issues about the decline in our Great Plains.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Michael Taylor on December 8, 2003
Format: Paperback
This book is typical of a piece that evolves from a New York Times Magazine article: full of narrative, a bit rammbling at times and a bit on the lite side. Matthews gives some snippets of ecological and historical analysis, but ultimately this is not an analytical book. It is very readable, however, and raises awareness to the ecologic and economic crises of the Great Plains. The piece details two Rutgers academics, the Poppers, who are promoting the notion of a "Buffalo Commons," a plan that involves the federal government buying out the most marginal of Great Plains land to turn into a giant reserve for bison, shortgrass and Indians. The book details much of the angry Western reaction to the plan. It also shows large sections of the West in near ruin, in desperate need of a new, sustainable solution, as current attempts to exploit the arid West by argiculture is producing only dust storms, a depleted aquifier and busted-out farm communities.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Michael Brown on July 7, 2014
Format: Paperback
This is a very well written and enjoyable account of the Poppers and their quest for greater sustainability on the Plains. In particular, they are addressing the even dryer, more marginal parts of the Great Plains west of the 98th meridian. Once prairie but with little real precipitation or topsoil, its removal for various reasons has essentially led to the de facto creation of the Buffalo Commons that they were encouraging more than 20 years ago. They were met with strong opposition, viewed as environmentalist and social engineers, when actually they were looking for ways to prevent decline of economy, environment and a way of life. The predictions being made then, have come to pass with the depopulation of the most marginal lands. Perhaps a future epilogue will show how the region and country adapted and engaged the change rather than just allowing everything to fall apart, denying it all along. That might be un-American, however.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A. Burchfield on June 8, 2005
Format: Paperback
Originally written by the author in 1992, She spent a year following the Poppers and their efforts to get people to see how the Great Plains states are dying. They are actually running out of water and losing population.

There are a lot of pages about their travels, speaking engagements with often hostile crowds,hostile press (not all western) and some sections dealing with the science of what is happening to the land out there. You also get a fair amount of history, some people always saw the Plains as land that shouldn't be developed as eastern land had been (it wasn't suitable for such useage).

I'd have liked more science and more detail on the Buffalo commons concept, it's an interesting idea but I don't see it becoming a national policy. The new forward and afterword deal with changes in the situation since the original publication but don't convince me that it has much chance of really happening.
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