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The Edge of Anomaly

The Edge of Anomaly

(p.33) 4 The Edge of Anomaly
Curt Meine
University of Chicago Press

This chapter explores the meanings and manifestations of wildness in the context of the Driftless Area of the Upper Midwest. Untouched by the Pleistocene glaciers that scraped across most of northern North America, the Driftless Area is a geographical anomaly. Its rugged terrain, exposed sedimentary bedrock, sinuous waterways, and winding valleys provide for a varied cultural, economic, and ecological landscape. The Driftless Area is not a “pristine” wilderness; but neither is it a completely humanized place. The Driftless landscape is a complex expression of natural features and processes that are always shaping, and being shaped by, human actions that began long ago and that continue up to this instant. Over the last two centuries, those actions have included land use practices that dramatically disrupted the older ecological order, as well as revolutionary conservation measures that have restored wildness and fostered ecological resilience. The natural and cultural history of the Driftless Area defy simplistic notions of the wild and the humanized, demonstrating how humans and nature can and do exist dynamically within any landscape.

Keywords:   Driftless Area, Pleistocene, conservation, watershed, wildness, contour farming, ecological resilience

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