Reviews: The Will of the Land

The Will of the Land                                                                                                                                         Peter Dettling

Rocky Mountain Books 2010

See it in Canadian Geographic HERE

When four bighorn sheep were killed by a truck near Jasper, Alta., Peter Dettling lost his pristine vision of the Canadian wilderness. The Swiss-born photographer had moved to the Rockies to pursue the “Canadian dream” of wide-open spaces and bountiful wildlife. Instead, he found “frustration, sadness and even anger at the fallen state of the Garden of Eden.” The Will of the Land details Dettling’s discontent about human interference in Canada’s mountain “sanctuary” with both words and photos.

The book’s cover photo — a stunning image of a wolf and grizzly bear standing face to face, inches apart — was featured in the December 2010 issue of Canadian Geographic. The most poignant section of the book, however, is an eight-page photo montage of a wolf pack that Dettling had followed for eight years. At first, the animals are in their natural habitat, vivacious and full of life. Then they’re road kill, their bodies mangled by cars, trucks and trains.

Dettling is critical of how Parks Canada manages the Rocky Mountains parks, especially Banff — and his concerns date all the way back to the establishment of Canada’s first national park in 1885. “In the late 19th century,” he writes, “there was no pretense that Banff should be anything but an engine of commerce and profit.” Yet his Utopian goal endures. He’d like to see Banff as natural and pristine as his vision of Canada once was.

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