Date of this Version
Great Plains Quarterly Vol. 29, No. 2, Spring 2009, pp. 153
Although the decline of the American bison is an often-told story, Michael Punke's meticulously researched work provides an engaging and careful delineation of George Bird Grinnell's singular role in marshaling the resources and support that led to the preservation and protection of the buffalo. -It's a story with many chapters, including the hunting and near extermination of the buffalo by hide hunters after the Civil War; the experiences of Grinnell in the lands beyond the Mississippi beginning in 1870 and his evolving interest in the region's wildlife and natural history; the creation of Yellowstone National Park in 1872 and the U.S. government's failure, until 1894, to adequately fund the protection of the park and its buffalo and other resources; and Grinnell's role in building government and private support through his position as editor of Forest and Stream for the ultimate allocation of federal funding and game protection for Yellowstone and the few wild buffalo that could still be found there.
Punke effectively identifies the individuals and forces that shaped the commitments of Grinnell, born to position and privilege in New York, to natural history, conservation, and the preservation of the buffalo. He contends it was from Lucy Audubon, the widow of the great ornithologist, that Grinnell learned the "greatest lesson of his life"-self-denial, or self-restraint. As editor of Forest and Stream for more than three decades, Grinnell consistently advanced the position that sportsmen should practice self-restraint in the pursuit of game and support bag limits, seasons, and license fees to preserve and improve habitat.