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Naturalist John James Audubon found the Great Plains and their wildlife so riveting when he visited the region in 1834 that he broke off a letter to his wife because he was too excited to write. In the almost two hundred years since then, the Wyoming landscape, deemed the "Italy of America" by landscape painter Albert Bierstadt, has retained its glory if not its place in the imagination of the American public. Wyoming Grasslands reminds us of the remarkable bounty contained in the wild beauty and rich history of the Wyoming grasslands – even as these riches are under threat from both human and natural forces.
This landscape is now captured in all its spectacular diversity in the photography of Michael P. Berman and William S. Sutton, two of the modern American West's most accomplished and well-known landscape photographers. Essays by Frank H. Goodyear, Jr., and Charles R. Preston provide a contextual framework for the images. Goodyear introduces us to the imagery of the American West and explains the place of Berman's and Sutton's work within that tradition, and Preston focuses on the natural history of the grasslands, illuminating the area's ecological diversity and changes through the seasons and over the years.
In 2012 Berman and Sutton launched their massive Wyoming Grasslands Photographic Project, a partnership between The Nature Conservancy, Wyoming Chapter, and the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. Working in the tradition of late-nineteenth-century explorers and photographers of the American West, Berman and Sutton shot more than 50,000 digital photographs of Wyoming prairie, from the Red Desert of southwestern Wyoming to the Thunder Basin National Grassland of the state's northeastern corner. The best of their extraordinarily sensitive, revealing, and powerful images appear in these pages, documenting the sweep and the seasons of the Wyoming landscape.
In eloquent words and pictures, including a foreword by environmental historian Dan Flores, Wyoming Grasslands offers dramatic proof of how the land that inspired the likes of Audubon and Bierstadt, while having altered over time, still holds and demands our attention.
Frank H. Goodyear, Jr., is Guest Curator at the Draper Natural History Museum, Buffalo Bill Center of the West, in Cody, Wyoming. He is the author of numerous books, including Contemporary American Realism since 1960 and Neil Welliver.
Charles R. Preston is the Willis McDonald, IV, Senior Curator of Natural Science at the Draper Natural History Museum, Buffalo Bill Center of the West, in Cody, Wyoming. His publications include Golden Eagle: Sovereign of the Skies (with G. Leppart, photographer) and An Expedition Guide to the Nature of Yellowstone and the Draper Museum of Natural History.
Dan Flores is retired as A. B. Hammond Professor of History at the University of Montana, Missoula. He is the author of numerous books, including Visions of the Big Sky: Painting and Photographing the Northern Rocky Mountain West and The Natural West: Environmental History in the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains.