The forests comprising the Gila National Forest and Wilderness in southwest New Mexico is the largest in the contiguous U.S., the least visited or photographed, the one most wild in nature. It is nestled at the nexus of four great ecosystems. It lies at the end of the Rocky Mountains after they slide down the North American continent like a glacier before breaking up into an archipelago of small ranges floating in a sea of grasslands. A couple hundred miles to the south, the Sierra Madre Mountains rise up, serrating Mexico for another two thousand miles. To the west lies the Sonoran Desert with its giant saguaros, and to the east spreads the Chihuahuan Desert, a minimalist dream of small ranges and desert grasslands.
In its present state, the Gila is a functioning, high-quality ecosystem of remote forests and canyons. The Gila River courses through this land, the last undammed river in New Mexico. The heart of the Gila is its unspoiled wilderness. Noted environmentalist Aldo Leopold conceived the modern concept of wilderness here. It was designated the worlds first wilderness area in 1924, and became the cornerstone of the National Wilderness Preservation System when the Wilderness Act was signed into law in 1961.
For more than thirty years, celebrated photographer Michael P. Berman has explored the vast Gila, fascinated by the land and how people use and value it. He has wandered deep into the forest with his large-format camera, searching for the untram- meled, scraggly, and complex ecosystems, allowing the Gila to reveal itself. In this two-volume slip-cased edition, the untouched specialness of the Gila is captured in Bermans photographs and explored in fifteen essays by noted writers, natural historians, and environmentalists.
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