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July 14, 1996|CHARLES SOLOMON

THE SIERRA CLUB WETLANDS READER edited by Sam Wilson & Tom Moritz (Sierra Club Books: $15, 255 pp., paperback original). For much of American history, wetlands have been seen as impediments to progress: swamps to be drained, oxbows to be filled, coastal marshes to be developed; their vital ecological roles were discovered relatively recently. The editors juxtapose literary descriptions by Thoreau, Jack London and Harriet Beecher Stowe with legal and historical documents relating to the status of wetlands. In a telling essay, Aldo Leopold comments, "Man cannot live by marsh alone, therefore he must needs live marshless. Progress cannot abide that farmland and marshland, wild and tame, exist in mutual tolerance and harmony."

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