Paper pub. date
January 2007
ISBN 9780870711862 (paperback)
5 1/2 x 8 1/2 inches, 288 pages.

The Prairie Keepers

Secrets of the Zumwalt

Marcy Cottrell Houle
With a new epilogue by the author.

In the remote northeast corner of Oregon lies the ruggedly beautiful Zumwalt Prairie, one of the last native prairies in the United States. A wild expanse of untilled ground covering nearly two hundred square miles, the Zumwalt is almost entirely managed by cattle ranchers. It also is home to one of the highest concentrations of hawks in North America. Marcy Houle, a wildlife biologist and student, first went to the Zumwalt in 1979 to discover what attracts and sustains the hawks there in such startling abundance.

Houle explores the vast prairie on foot and horseback, cataloging its hawks, studying its complex ecosystem, and meeting its people. Fueled by her youth, her spirit, her humor--and in part by her naivete--she bands birds, outruns a bull, and pulls together the factious community of ranchers, townspeople, and government employees. Her findings, eloquently reported, show that ranchers and wildlife not only can coexist, but in some instances must coexist if we are to save the last of the native prairies.

In a new epilogue, Houle writes of the Zumwalt two decades later. Despite tremendous changes occurring in the American West, she finds reason for hope in the Zumwalt--in the hawks and ranchers still there, and also in new partnerships that encourage stewardship and sustainable cattle grazing.

About the author

MARCY COTTRELL HOULE is a writer and wildlife biologist. Her books have been honored with the Christopher Award, the Oregon Book Award, the Oregonian’s Best Books of the Northwest, and New York Times Best Books for Earth Day. She has written articles for the New York Times, Nature Conservancy Magazine, and Cricket Magazine for Children. Marcy lives with her family in Portland, Oregon.

Read more about this author

"This lively record… is a particularly effective portrait of an ecosystem."

-The NY Times Book Review (A NYT Earth Day Reader's Selection)

"A passionate and enlightening description of a unique and glorious ecosystem and… a humorous and suspenseful personal narrative."

-Bookist (Starred Review; Editors' Choice)

"As a biologist and a keen observer of the people and places around her, Houle offers a wise, witty, and thought-provoking look at a topic more often adversarial than cooperative. This engaging book mixes memoir, ecology, travel writing, and political debate into one cohesive and cogent story. For those who care about the Earth and those who simply live upon it, The Prairie Keepers offers hope for a better, more cooperative future."

-The Charlotte Observer

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