CORVALLIS - The Oregon State University Press has published a pair of books by former reporters for The Oregonian that deal with the consequences of developing - or trying to develop - wild, untamed lands.
"Tongass: Pulp Politics and the Fight for the Alaska Rain Forest," by Kathie Durbin, chronicles the emotional political battle waged for more than half a century over the wild and beautiful Tongass rain forest along the coast of Alaska.
"Empty Nets," by Roberta Ulrich, spans the 60-year struggle by Native Americans to gain access to replacements for Columbia River fishing sites - promised by treaty in 1939 - after their traditional sites were lost following the construction of Bonneville Dam.
Though both of the books deal with issues of the environment and political struggles spanning more than half a century, their real appeal is the exploration of how these controversies have affected people and their families.
In "Tongass," Durbin helps provide a context for the contentious national debate over the fate of the world's largest temperate rain forest. Shortly after World War II, the U.S. government lured two pulp companies to southeast Alaska by offering them low-cost timber. The mills brought sorely needed jobs to the sparsely settled region, but that wasn't all.
Greed led to ecological disaster, an industry that broke labor unions, and a system that adversely affected politicians and the U.S. Forest Service. It took a national grassroots campaign by environmental activists to stem the damage.
In her book, Durbin gives voice to the people most affected by the debate - independent loggers who fought back against the pulp companies, biologists who warned of the ecological devastation, the Tlingit Indians who saw their traditional hunting grounds vanish, and the young activists and lawyers who drove the battle to save the rain forest.
A Portland resident, Durbin is the author of "Tree Huggers: Victory, Defeat, and Renewal in the Northwest Ancient Forest Campaign." She has written extensively about the environment as a reporter for The Oregonian, and for a number of national publications, including Audubon and High Country News. She now writes as an investigative reporter for The Columbian in Vancouver, Wash.
"Empty Nets" tells the other side of the story of damming the mighty Columbia River - a tale of broken promises and justice delayed. The battle to regain promised replacement sites, Ulrich writes, is part of Northwest tribes' larger battle - to gain fishing rights promised by the government through treaties.
She also examines related issues, from the dams' role in declining salmon runs, to industrial development, to tribal self-government and recreation. Her book looks not only at Native American cultures in the larger sense, but at the effects of Columbia River development on individual families. As a reporter for The Oregonian, Ulrich created the newspaper's first beat covering Native American issues. She also wrote for United Press International.
"Empty Nets" is part of an OSU Press series called Culture and Environment in the Pacific West, edited by William Lang, a professor of history at Portland State University. Previous volumes have explored the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, the Tillamook Forest, and other topics.
Both new OSU Press books are available at libraries and local book stores. They also may be ordered by calling 1-800-426-3797.