One of the books I consult most often in my work as the endangered species coordinator for the Arizona Game and Fish Department is Goode P. Davis, Jr.’s 1982 classic, “Man and Wildlife in Arizona: The American Exploration Period 1824–1865.” Now, one of the editors of Davis’ book, David E. Brown, has at last continued that intended three-part journey through our state’s diverse history with the publication of “Arizona Wildlife: The Territorial Years 1863–1912.”
A retired Arizona Game and Fish Department manager, Brown has a penchant for extracting information from oftentimes arcane sources and building a well-woven, highly readable trip through history. Newspaper accounts, personal journals, historical photographs, unpublished reports and published books and scientific papers all contribute to this fascinating depiction of Arizona’s wildlife and its people as they interacted during 50 years of significant change in both. From native fish to transplanted elk, from the Yuma desert to the Chuska-Lukachukai mountains, and from pioneering biological surveys to emerging wildlife conservation efforts and relentless predator eradication programs, if someone wrote about it between 1863 and 1912, Brown and his colleagues — Neil Carmony,
Harley Shaw, and W.L. “Wendell” Minckley — included it in this
Interspersed among the historical information recounted are Brown’s cogent remarks, providing context for issues such as changes (and causes thereof) in distribution and abundance of wildlife. On the human side, we learn much about which animals were hated, which were well-regarded, and why and how those values shifted or began to shift. We also get a look at how a rapidly growing human population began developing agencies, regulations and approaches for the protection, conservation and management of wildlife — measures intended to sustain, enhance or eradicate particular species.
I might not always agree with Brown’s opinions on such issues, but I will consider them carefully as I reflect on Arizona’s rich wildlife history and ponder how to help ensure that the legacy to future generations is equally rich. Every wildlife enthusiast should take a long, close look at this book and think about what will, or should, be evident in the sequel.
–Guest Reviewer Terry B. Johnson
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