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Organ Pipe: Life on the Edge

Organ Pipe: Life on the Edge
Carol Ann Bassett
University of Arizona Press and the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum
Publication Date: 

paper, 94 p., $13.95

In southwestern Arizona on the Mexican border lies a portion of the Sonoran Desert that is noted for its wide diversity of plant and animal life and its heavy concentration of native cacti. Named Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, it is here that the edges of different environments come together, creating a desert oasis that provides habitat for many living things. Author Carol Ann Bassett writes about this unique locale where she first learned to read the landscape in detail and gained a better appreciation of life in the wild.

The author magically stirs up images of a fragile terrain that is daunting to man for its beauty, solitude, and extreme heat. It is a vast repository of the fossils of animals that lived there millions of years ago. She traces the history of both the landscape and mankind, recording the story from man’s first habitation up to the 20th century. With the arrival of non–native populations, the natural environment became disturbed. Miners, settlers, and cattlemen all left their imprint upon the land before federal law protected the natural environment of the area.

Bassett’s narrative explores the changes that have taken place since her first visit, and she expresses the fear of so many who encounter threats to the biodiversity of a habitat. Although the author speaks of a specific setting, her words ring true for environments everywhere that are threatened by the impact of civilization.

— Marilyn K. Alaimo, garden writer and volunteer, Chicago Botanic Garden