Red Delta: Fighting for Life at the End of the Colorado River

Red Delta: Fighting for Life at the End of the Colorado River


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The powerful story of the delta's restored natural diversity with clear information on the "river of law" that governs water allotments to it.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781555914608
Publisher: Fulcrum Publishing
Publication date: 10/07/2002
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 7.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 9 Years

About the Author

Charles Bergman's previously acclaimed books are Wild Echoes: Encounter with North America's Most Endangered Species and Orion's Legacy: A Cultural History of Man as Hunter. He is a professor of English at Pacific Lutheran University and lives in Tacoma, Washington.

Read an Excerpt

The small plane looks like a bee, painted brown and yellow. The paint is
fading but the single engine is strong. It's a workhorse plane, a 1956
Cessna 182, Sandy Lanham's been flying for years. She is fifty-three-"a good
age," she says-has brown hair and eyes, and prefers a mirror with a light
coat of dust. It softens the focus, she says.

She calls herself an environmental pilot and describes what she does as
"flying to protect wildlife and save ground-including the sea." It means she
has has dedicated herself to helping researchers and environmentalists study
wild regions along the border in the arid Southwest and throughout Mexico.

Because she is enormously skilled and provides her services at reasonable
rates-flying can be very expensive-Sandy is famous among researchers and
conservationists in the region. She doesn't fly to get rich. She lives in a
strawbale house in a canyon outside Tucson, which she says "boosts her soul"
and gives reasons to feel grateful. She does it because "the work matters."
She raises money and then makes research flights. Through her surveys she
helps protect shorebirds and jaguars, pronghorn antelope and clams, blue
whales and "All things big and small," she says.
Recently the quality and value of her life of work, studying and protecting
and Mexico, has been recognized with a MacArthur Fellowship, a "genius
grant," which will help support her work.
Sandy has been intimately involved in the new effort to study and restore
the delta of the Colorado River in Mexico. She has helped researchers create
a new map and a new attitude for one of the most neglected and abused
landscapes in North America.

She and I have been flying over the delta for a couple of hours already. She
rolls the plane deftly into a tight turn. It bellies heavily into the
sun-yellow morning air, and we begin a thrilling spiral upward into the sky.
She wants to give me a wider view of the delta, which lies below us like a
vast bowl between the Sonoran Desert to the east and the mountains on the
Baja Peninsula to the west. In the south, the head of the Gulf of California
gleams in the reflected desert sun, and hundreds of thousands of acres of
farmlands stretch northward from Mexico into California's Imperial Valley.

Then Sandy makes an almost off-handed comment. It's a nudge that pushes me
into a new view of one of the saddest river deltas anywhere in the United
States or Mexico.

'It's a devastated delta," Sandy says through the intercom. "But," she says
through the intercom. "But," she says, "I love it."

With those words a new set of feelings suddenly popped into clear focus.
They had been taking shape for nearly two years, as I conducted my research
throughout the delta. With her words, though, I realized that I too had come
to love this delta. Among other things, this book is the story of how and
why I would come to love this place-and want to save it.

That people have slowly come to care about the Mexican delta of the Colorado
River is one of the most remarkable environmental stories on the continent.
Researchers like Sandy Lanham, and many more whose stories are told in this
book, are coming to the delta after it was ignored for virtually all of the
last century. During that time, the delta became one of the major symbols in
two nations of an environmental disaster area.

Yet this new generation of researchers has brought new eyes to the delta and
the place has been "rediscovered." What they have found in the "devastated"
delta is an almost miraculous turnaround, an ecological revival that is as
wonderful as it is improbable. The revival is wholly accidental, the result
of stunning bureaucratic mistakes and water-management decisions. It defies
the national projects in both the United States and Mexico that would
subject the complete length of the Colorado River to a program of exhaustive
total use. Sadly, it may be temporary.

Out of this recovery and rediscovery, the delta has emerged as one of the
top conservation priorities of environmentalists in both the United States
and Mexico. It has also become arguably one of the single most important
binational environmental challenges on the continent. We now realize the
delta was probably the richest biological area in the southwestern part of
the North America.


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