Wilderness words

My words show up in a local newspaper, and I reflect on the lineage of wilderness advocacy writing.

Minnesota Naturalist magazine cover
Minnesota Naturalist

Today was the third anniversary of my career as a “professional water-worshiper.” It has been at turns exhausting and exhilarating. I am often struck by simply how much I have done and experienced in these 36 months.

Luckily, my job often involves writing. I sometimes say it is the only thing I’m any good at it, and I enjoy it like really nothing else. I inherited the affliction from my Dad; a bequest that’s value is yet to be determined.

In my latest exercise of the craft, I co-authored a commentary published in the St. Paul Pioneer Press today. My partner was Kevin Proescholdt, a long-time wilderness advocate and a respected writer in his own right. We wrote about the prospect of new sulfide mine proposals, which would seek copper and nickel in the Arrowhead region:

For several years, companies proposing new mines in Minnesota have pledged to comply with our state’s environmental laws. But today they are seeking to roll back and weaken environmental protections with the help of a willing Legislature. All that talk about “doing it right” and “playing by the rules” seems to have been just that: talk.

Read the whole piece »

I believe my organization carries on some of the work of Sigurd Olson, the writer whose books about the canoe country and his passionate advocacy are largely responsible for its protected status today. My three years of work and minor written output deserve no comparison, though I take solace knowing that he was 50 before publishing his first book.

Most folks would probably associate Sig with his prose, which sang the song of “The Singing Wilderness” (the title of his first book). He had adventures all over the Boundary Waters and wild Canadian rivers, and he wrote about his trips and the profound impact wilderness could have on the human soul.

Not many people probably would associate him with the conservation issue that I wrote about above and which consumes much of my life. But, the other day I dug up a magazine from 1974 called “Minnesota Naturalist,” a special issue which was all about the issue of proposed copper-nickel mining in northeastern Minnesota.

Sigurd Olson wrote a short introduction to the magazine. He was 75-years-old, and his words don’t quite hit the high notes of his prime, but it is unmistakably Sig. This is some of what he says:

Today this land is faced with a new threat that could destroy swiftly and forever the very qualities that engender love and dedication in those who have known it. Short term mining developments within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area or close enough to affect it adversely must be weighed now against its value as wilderness.

This is an ethical and humanitarian problem rather than one of economics and industrial development. Let us therefore plan wisely to preserve this wilderness treasure of the North … America cannot afford to lose another priceless heritage.

Read the whole introduction (PDF) »

Click the magazine cover above to see a full-size version. The whole magazine featured color photographs by Les Blacklock, and the cover is Kodachrome goodness.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *