Environmental History of the Hudson River

Human Uses that Changed the Ecology, Ecology that Changed Human Uses

Edited by Robert E. Henshaw
Foreword by Frances F. Dunwell

Subjects: New York/regional, Environmental Studies
Paperback : 9781438440262, 404 pages, September 2011
Hardcover : 9781438440279, 404 pages, September 2011

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Table of contents

Frances F. Dunwell

Robert E. Henshaw

The Hudson River Watershed: An Abbreviated Geography
Robert E. Henshaw

PART I. History and Biology: Providing Explanations
Robert E. Henshaw

1. Historical Facts/Biological Questions
Robert E. Henshaw

2. Linkages between People and Ecostystems: How Did We Get from Separate to Equal?
Stuart Findlay

3. Symbioses between Biologists and Social Scientists
Lucille Lewis Johnson

PART II. River of Resources
Robert E. Henshaw

4. Hudson River Fisheries: Once Robust, Now Reduced
Robert A. Daniels, Robert E. Schmidt, and Karin E. Limburg

5. Herpetofauna of the Hudson River Watershed: A Short History
Alvin R. Breisch

6. Human Impacts on Hudson River Morphology and Sediments: A Result of Changing Uses and Interests
Frank O. Nitsche, Angela L. Slagle, William B. F. Ryan, Suzanne Carbotte, Robin Bell, Timothy C. Kenna, and Roger D. Flood

7. The Earliest Thirteen Millennia of Cultural Adaptation along the Hudson River Estuary
Christopher R. Lindner

8. Archaeological Indices of Environmental Change and Colonial Ethnobotany in Seventeenth-Century Dutch New Amsterdam
Joel W. Grossman

9. Linking Uplands to the Hudson River: Lake to Marsh Records of Climate Change and Human Impact over Millennia
Dorothy M. Peteet, Elizabeth markgraf, Dee C. Pederson, and Sanpisa Sritrairat

10. Vegetation Dynamics in the Northern Shawangunk Mountains: The Last Three Hundred Years
John E. Thompson and Paul C. Huth

11. Agriculture in the Hudson Basin Since 1609
Simon Litten

12. Ecology in the Field of Time: Two Centuries of interaction between Agriculture and Native Species in Columbia County, New York
Conrad Vispo and Claudia Knab-Vispo

13. The Introduction and Naturalization of Exotic Ornamental Plants in New York’s Hudson River Valley
Chelsea Teale

PART III. River of Commerce
Robert E. Henshaw

14. The Rise and Emise of the Hudson River Ice Harvesting Industry: Urban needs and Rural Responses
Wendy E. Harris and Arnold Pickman

15. Human Sanitary Wastes and Waste Treatment in New York City
David J. Tonjes, Christine A. O’Connell, Omkar Aphale, and R. L. Swanson

16. Foundry Cove: Icon of the Interaction of Industry with Aquatic Life
Jeffrey S. Levinton

17. River City: Transporting Commerce and Culture
Roger Panetta

18. Out of the Fray: Scientific Legacy of Environmental Regulation of Electric Generating Stations in the Hudson River Valley
John R. Young and William P. Dey

PART IV. River of Inspiration
Robert E. Henshaw

19. Birth of the Environmental Movement in the Hudson River Valley
Albert K. Butzel

20.   The Influence of the Hudson River School of Art in the Preservation of the River, Its Natural and Cultural Landscape, and the Evolution of Environmental Law
Harvey K. Flad

21. “Thy Fate and Mine Are Not Repose”: The Hudson and Its Influence
Geoffrey L. Brackett

22. The Past as Guide to a Successful Future
Robert E. Henshaw

Robert E. Henshaw

Web Addresses of Cited and Key Agencies, Not-For-Profit Organizations, and Academic Institutions in the Hudson River Basin

Biologists, historians, and social scientists explore the reciprocal relationships between humans and the Hudson River.


Winner of the 2012 Award for Excellence presented by the Greater Hudson Heritage Network

The diverse contributions to Environmental History of the Hudson River examine how the natural and physical attributes of the river have influenced human settlement and uses, and how human occupation has, in turn, affected the ecology and environmental health of the river. The Hudson River Valley may be America's premier river environmental laboratory, and by bringing historians and social scientists together with biologists and other physical scientists, this book hopes to foster new ways of looking at and talking about this historically, commercially, and aesthetically important ecosystem.

Native people's influences on the ecological integrity of aquatic and shoreline communities were generally local and minor, and for the first 12,000 years or so of human use, the Hudson River was valued mainly as a source of water, food, and transportation. Since the arrival of European colonists, however, commerce has been the engine that has driven development and use of the river, from the harvesting of beaver pelts and timber to the siting of manufacturing industries and power plants, and all of these uses have had pervasive effects on the river's aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. In the meantime, aesthetic movements such as the Hudson River School of painting have sought to recover and preserve the earlier pastoral landscape, anticipating the more recent efforts by environmentalists that have led to dramatic improvements in water quality, shoreline habitats, and fish populations.

Despite the pervasive forces of commerce, the Hudson River has retained its world-class scenic qualities. The Upper Hudson remains today a free-flowing, tumbling mountain stream, and the Lower Hudson a fjord penetrated and dominated by the Hudson Highlands. The Hudson's unique history continues to affect current uses and will surely influence the future in remarkable ways.

Robert E. Henshaw received his Ph.D. in environmental physiology at the University of Iowa and worked for twenty years as an environmental analyst at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. He has taught in the Department of Geography and Planning at the University at Albany–SUNY, and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Hudson River Environmental Society. He lives in West Sand Lake, New York.


"…the book offers several valuable contributions to our understanding of the Hudson and its environmental history … it brings to public attention the importance and complexity of one of America's great rivers. " — H-Net Reviews (H-Environment)

"Section introductions by the editor, Robert E. Henshaw, successfully weave the disparate topics into a cohesive chronicle … The book eloquently concludes that 'the Hudson River has been uniquely important to New York's culture, history, commerce, and tourism. ' It also has forged a link between the interrelated aspects of city and country, technology and nature, industry and leisure, and business and art. " — Kaatskill Life

"…captures the Hudson's complex identity and defines the importance of the river both as its own entity and to the region it supports. " — Hudson River Valley Review

"Overall, the book makes a strong case for the important roles that the Hudson Valley's citizenry played in US transportation systems (first steamship and railroad), art (Hudson River School), law (litigation leading to landmark environmental legislation), conservation (Theodore Roosevelt while New York governor), and environmental and ecological investigations. This extensive account provides an optimistic picture of the region's current situation and future prospects despite some lingering problems (including urban sprawl) … Highly recommended. " — CHOICE