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Culture Clash in the Hinterlands

American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West
By Nate Blakeslee
Crown Publishing Group, 2017, 300 pages

This is how I explained it to my nine-year-old niece in hopes that she would get the big picture, the science inside Nate Blakeslee’s American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West: It had been 70 years since a ranger shot the last wolf in Yellowstone to “protect big game” within the national park. Now the goal was to make the ecosystem whole again. So in 1995, park…
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by: Gerry Wigenbach – Spring 2018

A Western Love Story

Because It Is So Beautiful: Unraveling the Mystique of the American West
By Robert Leonard Reid
Counterpoint Press, 2017, 308 pages

Robert Leonard Reid has given us an extraordinary anthology of his life’s work. We may as well get that out of the way. This is no shallow, tin-eared feature boasting “101 Best Places to Eat in New Mexico.” For the most part, Because It Is So Beautiful: Unraveling the Mystique of the American West is travel writing as diffused biography, combining a meditated natural and human history of the United States with…
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by: Gerry Wigenbach – Autumn 2017

Natural Data Detectives

Citizen Scientist: Searching for Heroes and Hope in an Age of Extinction
By Mary Ellen Hannibal
The Experiment, 2016, 395 pages

After the Exxon Valdez struck a reef and spilled perhaps as much as 38 million gallons of crude oil into pristine Prince William Sound, lawyers for Exxon successfully argued for minimal damages related to bird mortality because no one had a clue how many birds were there prior to the disaster. But that was 1989, before armies of citizen scientists started recording individual observations of the natural world. Today, vigilant citizen-based monitoring…
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by: Gerry Wigenbach – Spring 2017

True Grit

Greenpeace Captain: My Adventures in Protecting
the Future of Our Planet
By Peter Wilcox (with Ronald B. Weiss)
Thomas Dunne Books, 2016, 314 pages

Without courage, what good are values? Over the past four decades, Peter Wilcox, a determined and dedicated Greenpeace ship captain (Rainbow Warrior, Arctic Sunrise, and other vessels), has repeatedly demonstrated unfathomable courage bringing attention to the destruction of this island we call Earth. Greenpeace Captain is his story, written without braggadocio, and often set in far-off places. It highlights the true grit Wilcox and his crew live by, which includes never-ending respect…
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by: Gerry Wigenbach – Autumn 2016

The Naturalist We Know Nothing About

The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World
by Andrea Wulf
Alfred A. Knopf, 2015, 496 pages

First the facts. Alexander von Humboldt did not invent nature. What he did was observe and chronicle the natural world more precisely than any scientist before him, making giant strides in our understanding of the natural world. Some even argue he invented ecology. Most of his extensive data came from a five-year-long exploration of South America beginning in 1799. He traveled with scientific instruments, a supercomputer of a brain, and a poet’s…
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by: Gerry Wigenbach – Spring 2016

A Crush Course on Old Ways

The Lost World of the Old Ones: Discoveries in the Ancient Southwest
by David Roberts
W.W. Norton & Company, 2015, 327 pages

An eight-year-old girl on a backpacking trip with her father, the renowned climber Greg Child, and the equally renowned writer and accomplished climber David Roberts, finds a woven basket created more than 1,500 years ago by Ancestral Puebloans of the American Southwest. It was the same basket David Roberts and his wife, Sharon, found and left in situ 18 years earlier. But now I’ve gotten ahead of the story. I’ve told you…
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by: Gerry Wigenbach – Autumn 2015

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