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A historical geography of changing attitudes to wetlands in the United States Midwest

Prince, Hugh Counsell; (1996) A historical geography of changing attitudes to wetlands in the United States Midwest. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

The study discusses ways in which different people at different times viewed wetland environments, appraised their potential value, contrived to transform them by draining and farming or protect them as wildlife refuges and places for outdoor recreation. It traces changes in peoples' perceptions, critically examining literary evidence for changing attitudes towards wetlands in seven Midwest states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Views of places described by travellers, landowners, journalists and writers of fiction are compared with reports by federal and state officials, maps and statistical data. Changing scientific descriptions and classifications of the physical characteristics of wet prairies, swamps and bogs are reviewed. Important changes in the outlook of Indians followed their contact with Europeans. The fur trade and later occupation of the land by white settlers disrupted Indian economy, society and culture and led to removal of people themselves. The earliest pioneers were repelled by wetlands as sources of disease and obstacles to movement. Railroads, cattlemen and large estates began to open up wet prairies in the middle of the nineteenth century but abiding prejudices deterred prospective settlers and kept land prices low. Tile draining transformed the landscape, raised confidence and encouraged farming settlement. Northern peatlands attracted railroads and lumbermen to cut and mill stands of white pine. For a brief period, from 1900 to 1920, attempts were made to drain large tracts of cutover swamps and bogs and establish farms. Farms failed and land reverted to public ownership. Conservation of wetland habitats for wildlife, reafforestation and recreational use replaced agriculture. In the second half of the twentieth century, ideas of conserving wetlands competed with ideas of increasing agricultural productivity. Since 1980, following economic anf environmental crises, conservation ideas have won many adherents.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: A historical geography of changing attitudes to wetlands in the United States Midwest
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Social sciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10100734
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