#EnvHist Worth Reading: February 2017

"Image from page 242 of "Domesticated animals and plants; a brief treatise upon the origin and development of domesticated races, with special reference to the methods of improvement" (1910)" Source: Flicker Commons

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Every month I carefully track the most popular and significant environmental history articles, videos, audio, and other items making their way through the online environmental history (#envhist) community. You can watch all of our #EnvHist Worth Reading videos right here. Here are my choices for items most worth reading from February 2017:

1. After a century, the bison are back in Banff National Park

The most popular story in February in the #EnvHist network was the return of bison to Banff National Park. This story is of particular interest to members of NiCHE community who attended Canadian History of the Environment Summer School (CHESS) 2016 in Banff last Spring, the theme of which was “Bison Landscapes, Mountain Places.” This particular iteration of the story, from the Calgary Herald, describes how “Parks Canada has successfully relocated 16 wild bison from Elk Island National Park to the remote Panther Valley in Banff National Park.” The article also discusses some of the history and ecology behind this rewilding effort.

2. Threshold Podcast Season One: Oh Give Me a Home

Relatedly, the Threshold podcast debuted in February. This podcast from Montana Public Radio seeks to explore stories from the natural world, and what they say about us. In their first season, Threshold is looking at the story of American bison. So far there are six episodes available ranging from exploring the historical and ecological processes that led to the bison’s near-extinction to Indigenous perspectives on the topic to the opinions of cattle ranchers.

3. In latest skirmish of western land wars, Congress supports mining and ranching

One of the regulations put into place by the Obama Administration that is likely to be repealed by a Republican Congress is the “Bureau of Land Management’s new Planning 2.0 rule, which is designed to improve BLM’s process for making decisions about ranching, energy development and other uses of public lands.” In this article, Adam M. Sowards uses an historical lens to argue that this repeal will open up the BLM to more lawsuit and complaints. The BLM, created in 1946, was in the pocket of ranching and mining interests until the 1970s, Sowards demonstrates, when changes were made to increase public involvement and balance extractive interests with preservation and recreation.

4. Scott Pruitt’s First Address to to the EPA: Annotated

Environmental historian, Christopher Sellers, and other members of the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative annotated Scott Pruitt’s first address to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The annotations are mainly pointed at the historical details that Pruitt employs within his speech, and also aim to point out the work that was accomplished by the EPA in the past. The annotation that got the most attention was the one that points out Pruitt’s misuse of a John Muir quote on page 9. This annotated speech is an example of environmental history knowledge and broader historical knowledge used for an explicitly political agenda/message.

5. Re-thinking Artifact 

This past month on his blog, Mining Landscapes, John Baeten, asks what happens when the concept of an artifact is challenged. What happens when we don’t assume that “an artifact is always something tangible, always something obviously human, and always rooted in technological materialism”? Baeten discusses a recent visit to a German industrial heritage site and how displays of contaminated soil and polluted water at this site challenged his idea of what can be categorized as an artifact. Baeten uses the rest of the post to explore this thought-provoking idea.

Remember to follow #envhist hashtag and NiCHE (@NiCHE_Canada) on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ to keep up with the latest environmental history content.

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is an environmental historian of Canada and the United States, editor, and digital communications strategist. She earned her PhD in History from the University of Saskatchewan in 2019. She is an executive member, editor-in-chief, and social media editor for the Network in Canadian History and Environment (NiCHE). She is also a working board member of the Saskatchewan History and Folklore Society and Girls Rock Saskatoon. A passionate social justice advocate, she focuses on developing digital techniques and communications that bridge the divide between academia and the general public in order to democratize knowledge access. You can find out more about her and her freelance services at jessicamdewitt.com.

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