Books: Rewilding the West

Richard Manning rails against “map and camera” prairie restoration.


The northern Montana prairie is not exactly inviting: It gets only 10 inches of rain a year, and the winters are Siberian. The region, known as the Missouri Breaks, was once a sea of grass supporting countless elk, bison, wolves, and grizzlies. But in the 19th century, humans evicted the megafauna in favor of cattle that have, as environmental journalist Richard Manning puts it, “vacuumed every blade of grass from the landscape.” In Rewilding the West, Manning tells the grim story of the Breaks and offers a prescription for turning the worn-out region into a pristine, profitable Yellowstone of the plains.

A private conservation group hopes to restore the Breaks by creating a 3.5 million-acre preserve open to bird-watchers, mountain bikers, and sport hunters. But Manning rails against map-and-camera preservation, which he sees as elitist. Instead, he advocates that the preserve become a self-sustaining grassland that will use carbon sequestration to protect prairie and reap profits from large-scale bison and elk hunting. A tenacious reporter, Manning is a guy with a passion for grass, and that’s a good thing. Rewilding the West can be preachy, but it reminds us of a forgotten place that deserves more attention.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.