Irrigated Eden

The Making of an Agricultural Landscape in the American West

Mark Fiege
Foreword by William Cronon

  • Published: July 2015
  • Subject Listing: History / Environmental History; Environmental Studies
  • Bibliographic information: 320 pp., 29 illus.,
    , 6.125 x 9.25 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Series: Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books
  • Contents

Irrigation came to the arid West in a wave of optimism about the power of water to make the desert bloom. Mark Fiege's fascinating and innovative study of irrigation in southern Idaho's Snake River valley describes a complex interplay of human and natural systems. Using vast quantities of labor, irrigators built dams, excavated canals, laid out farms, and brought millions of acres into cultivation. But at each step, nature rebounded and compromised the intended agricultural order. The result was a new and richly textured landscape made of layer upon layer of technology and intractable natural forces-one that engineers and farmers did not control with the precision they had anticipated. Irrigated Eden vividly portrays how human actions inadvertently helped to create a strange and sometimes baffling ecology.

Winner of the Idaho Library Association Book Award, 1999

Winner of the Charles A. Weyerhaeuser Award, Forest History Society, 1999-2000
Foreword by William Cronon
Introduction: Discovering the Irrigated Landscape
1) Genesis: Water, Earth, and Irrigation Systems
2) Habitat: The Irrigated Landscape and Its Biota
3) Dividing Water: Conflict, Cooperation, and Allocation on the Upper Snake River
4) Labor and Landscape: Irrigated Agriculture and Work
5) From Field to Market: Agricultural Production in the Irrigated Landscape
6) Industrial Eden: Myth, Metaphor, and the Irrigated Landscape
7) Conclusion: A World in the making
Selected Bibliography

"Fiege suggests that, no matter how we try to alter the natural world, the unexpected consequences of our actions will always come back to haunt us. . . . He also offers new ways of thinking about the past and, possibly, new ways of thinking about how the future will unfold. The writing style is eloquent."

"For such a focused book, there is remarkable breath here. No one will go away from this book without having their view of irrigated landscapes enlarged and enriched."
-Washington State Magazine