Queen of Conservation and Knight of the Green Order

This morning Minneapolis Public Radio interviewed me and Kenyon Fields about The Spine of the Continent. Saving ‘The Spine of the Continent’ Kenyon is Strategy Director for Wildlands Network, the main hub organizing more than 30 NGOs to forge protected areas along the Rockies. I would say that Kenyon is my Virgil, if that didn’t make me Dante, but it’s fair enough to say that the conservation world he guided me through has a lot in common with the concentric circles of h-e-double-toothpicks and is indeed its own Divine Comedy. Kenyon is one of the dashing young men of conservation, kind of an outdoorsy-scholarly type, and he has a serious weakness for gorgeous blondes. I met him at a wil

Burn This

I spent the last few days at a “controlled burn” conference in Lake Tahoe, and it was pretty fascinating. First of all, fire is cool. Or hot. A controlled burn is a fire set on purpose and not by a kid in the backyard. The reason fire ecologists say we have to have more controlled burns is that for thousands and thousands of years, the landscape evolved with fire methodically set by Native Americans. Native burning promoted crops like acorns and in general took up a functional role in the long-run seasonality of what grows, where, and when. Fire became a key part of the agricultural cycle, and the rest of the ecosystem evolved along with it. Lots of bird species, for example, are “fire adapt

Moving On

It’s fun to win awards, of course, but beyond that they do serve an important purpose. A few days ago I found out that with Emeline Ostlund and Joe Riis, I won the Stanford Knight-Risser Award for Western Environmental Journalism. The three of us contributed the main components of a suite of articles on the Path of the Pronghorn for High Country News. We also won a National Association of Science Writers Science and Society Award for these features. Emeline and Joe get (and deserve) higher billing than I do on this roster. They spent about two years each, separately and together, actually trekking the Path of the Pronghorn—a 6,000 year old migration route over about 100 miles in Wyoming—with

Take Note

The connections between art, science, and detective work are no more apparent than in the field journal. Through the mostly hand-written notes recorded by botanists, novelists, and police officers, the raw materials of who, what, when, and where are documented over time so that eventually patterns can be discerned and the big questions of “how” and “why” find some kind of answer. In his introduction to Field Notes on Science & Nature, E.O. Wilson once again hits all the bases and brings the biological-emotional connection home: “If there is a heaven, and I am allowed entrance, I will ask for no more than an endless living world to walk through and explore. I will carry with me an inexhaus

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