Islands in the Desert : An Environmental Interpretation of the Rocky Mountain Frontier
College Station, Texas
2 vols., Texas A&M University
As a cultural phenomenon, the western frontier of the United States has played a central role in the development of the American people and of their institutions. Of particular importance to the directions American civilization has taken has been the interaction between men and nature on the frontier. The basic ecological elements -- "the way a country is put together"--Have the capacity for altering existing cultures which they contact, and shaping the future evolution of those which stay. In American frontier history, the stage has been as important as the actors. The objectives of this study were to isolate one particular and unique western physiographic province -- the Rocky Mountains -- to determine the ecological factors it possessed which might have shaped human culture; and to examine the cultural developments of the region to fully apperceive the influence of the land on man's history, social institutions, and technological advancements. The mountainous interior West was settled as a part of the great movement of Americans and immigrants westward in the 19th century. Possessing an ecosystem in many respects unique to itself, the chief environmental characteristics of the region were: great altitude; a pronounced biome cone effect; rugged topography with steep gradients; relatively abundant rainfall increasing with altitude; abundant and specially-adapted wildlife; and vast quantities of timber, rock, and mineral deposits which occurred in widely-separated resource "pockets."