Consider a two-inch-thick tome produced by the federal government and your eyelids are likely to fall. If the volume is Our Living Resources, your reaction could be just the opposite. Anyone interested in ecological issues may find this report indispensable.
To begin with, the 530-page document holds page after page of full-color photographs, maps and charts. But what is most impressive is its scope. Compiled by the National Biological Service, the embattled agency created to survey American ecosystems, the book is an encyclopedia of the current state of the nation's natural resources. Nearly every animal species, especially those that are rare or endangered, warrants at least a brief chapter, as do entire ecosystems such as the Great Plains, the Florida Keys, the Great Lakes and the Interior West.
The 47-page index runs from Abert's squirrel to the Zuni sucker - a fish native to the Colorado River Basin - and the government, academic and other scientists who authored each chapter have generally, but not always, written in layman's terms.
Like anything the government produces, the book is not cheap. It costs $44 (this includes postage) and is available by writing the Superintendent of Documents, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA, 15250-7954 or calling 202/512-1800 or faxing a request to 202/512-2250. CD-ROM may also be available.
- Michael Milstein