248 pages, b/w illustrations
The Pacific Northwest has always invoked images of lush forested landscapes and travelog vistas. More recently, such images have been marred by much-publicized controversies pitting spotted owls and salmon against logging interests and power companies. But, as Robert Bunting shows, such conflicts are only the most recent emblems of the competition for dominion in the Douglas-fir region running from southern Canada to northern California.
Bunting chronicles this struggle from the first sustained contact between Native American and Euro-American cultures to 1900, when Frederick Weyerhaeuser's purchase of 900,000 acres of Washington forest completed one of the largest land deals in U.S. history. He depicts an evolving Eden that was never as environmentally pristine nor as viciously exploited as some have suggested, but which reflected the complex relations created by competing cultures amidst the illusion of inexhaustible abundance.
Bunting describes in detail this distinctive bioregion and reveals how various groups of people have viewed it, struggled to possess it, and been shaped by it. His study illuminates the contrasting ways in which Indians and non-Indians interacted with the environment and with each other; the underlying myths that governed such differences; the actual environmental attitudes of western settlers rather than eastern intellectuals; the inextricable links between environmental and human exploitation, as well as between ecological and cultural stability; and the curiously divergent paths of development taken by the two raincoast states, Washington and Oregon.
An exemplar of the new environmental history, The Pacific Raincoast expands our understanding of a vital place that witnessed the clash of cultures; fired the imaginations of Lewis and Clark and generations of restless Americans; conjured up visions of empire for timber corporations; and eventually provided a showcase battleground for environmentalists.
"Robert Bunting offers us a fascinating and exemplary medley of regional, environmental, and social history. The research is thorough, the description vivid and compelling, the analysis forthright and persuasive, and the writing is clear and cogent. Above all, the author eloquently champions the imperiled beauty and biodiversity of the Pacific Northwest."
– Alan Taylor, author of William Cooper's Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early American Republic
"This engaging and important book illuminates a great many dark corners and forgotten places beyond as well as in the Douglas-fir region. Blending narrative and analysis in wonderfully deft and readable ways, Bunting shows us two very different methods of managing land and waterand their consequences. This volume should enjoy a wide audience, both inside and outside academe."
– James P. Ronda, author of Astoria and Empire
"Provides a dynamic and fascinating new view of the historical relationship between peoples and environment in the region."
– Carlos Schwantes, author of The Pacific Northwest: An Interpretive History
"A meticulously sculpted and carefully researched inquiry into the relationship between culture and the natural world of the Douglas-fir bioregion in the Pacific Northwest. Bunting effectively moves his discussion beyond Richard White's classic study, Land Use, Environment, and Social Change, into the realm of the most advanced work in recent environmental history. A richly textured story of myth, illusion, abundance, and finally, ambiguity."
– William G. Robbins, author of Colony and Empire: The Capitalist Transformation of the American West
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Robert Bunting is assistant professor of history and southwest studies at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado. He is a native of Oregon and a fourth generation Pacific Northwesterner.