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for people who care about the West

Photographs of the sagebrush sea

Review of ‘Sage Spirit: The American West at a Crossroads’ by Dave Showalter.


Sage Spirit: The American West at a Crossroads
By Dave Showalter
173 pages,
Paperback: $24.95.
Mountaineers Books, 2015.

Photographer and writer Dave Showalter has spent a quarter century wandering the sagebrush of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. In Sage Spirit: The American West at a Crossroads, he takes the reader on a journey across the “Sagebrush Sea,” one of America’s most imperiled landscapes. The book’s impassioned essays and evocative photographs focus on the competing conservation policies for the ecosystem and its diverse wildlife, particularly the sage grouse, known for its puffed-out chest and flamboyant courtship dance. Showalter employs the bird as a guide to the complicated tangos between public and private lands, and between threatened wildlife and human history. Photographs capture the bird’s intricate dance, while immersive essays by biologists, ornithologists and others trace the complex, not always successful, maneuvers of land managers. Together they create a somewhat mismatched and yet melodious duet that yearns for more collaborative conservation in the West.