Big, Wild, and Connected – John Davis on his newly released book
Posted: 17 Jun 2013 12:37 PM PDT on John’s TrekWest blog
Big, Wild, and Connected: Wildlands Network and Island Press collaborate on Trek E-books
“Was it really necessary to push myself across more than 7000 miles of a hypothetical wildway, climb a hundred mountains, paddle dozens of waterways, brave busy roads, and endure scorching heat and bitter cold to confirm what people smarter than I had already explained? Of course it was, for no truth is deeply enough embedded till you have lived it … “
When Island Press and Wildlands Network kindly agreed to help me write up an account of TrekEast, I suggested the title Shy, Sensitive, and Wide-ranging, as I thought that befit my own character while, more importantly, pointing to the types of wildlife for whom we should show special concern. My friend and editor Barbara Dean gently reminded me that the subtle humor in that title would be lost on people who do not already know me as the lucky wildways trekker. She suggested instead the rewilding themes that our friends Dave Foreman, Michael Soulé, Reed Noss, John Terborgh, and others have championed for decades. TrekEast two years ago and TrekWest now are journeys to explore the continental wildways conceptually painted by Dave a decade ago in his classic book Rewilding North America, and to promote them along the way.
As a wilderness explorer and proponent, I feel privileged and honored to be following the paths shown me by these mentors and similarly great teachers like Susan Morse of Keeping Track, Bill McKibben of 350.org, Jerry Jenkins of Wildlife Conservation Society, Gary Randorf of Adirondack Council, and other teachers too numerous to mention. Big, Wild, and Connected, (a 3-part E-ssentials series published by Island Press — long a publisher of most of my conservation library) is essentially the story of a scout who sets out to verify the teachings of his mentors, on the ground, and in so doing takes on the perspectives of wildlife, especially that great cat who is missing from most of the East, the Cougar or Panther. I completed TrekEast in November 2011, more sure than ever that successful conservation depends on big, wild, interconnected lands and waters, with full complements of native species including top carnivores. I also learned new things along the way, and had many great wild adventures, which I hope you will share with me by reading this e-book.
My name is going on the book cover as author, because I was the fortunate one out in the wilds for nine months; but this really was a team effort. Many of my family members were involved, especially my wife Denise, who guarded the home front during my physical journey and helped get my manuscript ready for Island Press; and my father, Bob, who was a primary source of logistical and moral and financial support during my year of challenging volunteer physical labor. George Davis, whom I’d be proud to call a brother but who is actually just a friend, came to my rescue to serve as Trans-Media Editor for the TrekEast books and, I hope, beyond. The whole Wildlands Network team – staff, Board, contractors and volunteers — was involved in making TrekEast a successful communications and outreach effort as well as a safe journey; and Island Press put several of its top people on the task of turning my rough notes and rambling observations into a coherent book. Also many fellow trekkers who bring the talent of digital photography to the world provided depth and beauty to the retelling of my Wildway exploration.
Now sitting in a library in Moab, Utah, half way through TrekWest and between meetings with High Lonesome Ranch and Sierra Club, fresh off paddling the Green River and steeling myself for mountain biking in hundred degree heat, I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the hundreds of friends, family members, and colleagues who contributed to the conservation journey we came to know as TrekEast. I feel equal gratitude to the same folks and others for making TrekWest similarly safe and successful so far. I want you to read our book, so I won’t share too many of its lessons here, but suffice to say for now: TreksEast & West are affirming these truths:
- Restoring healthy balances in natural ecosystems will require bringing back missing species, such as the red wolf in the Southeast and the cougar throughout wilder parts of the East.
- If we protect nearly all remaining natural areas, reconnect them with wildlife corridors, and put safe wildlife crossings on major roads, it will become safe again for a hypothetical panther to head north from South Florida and make it, over a series of generations, to and through the Northern Appalachians. In short, it is not too late to restore an Eastern Wildway, but it almost is.
- Ecological restoration—potentially creating thousands of lasting jobs—will be necessary in many areas. Restoring and protecting buffers along and around Wildways is especially critical. Riparian zones are critical wildlife corridors as well protectors of aquatic biodiversity.
- Conserving North America’s immense natural heritage will require cooperation on a scale seldom achieved before in any realm, between conservation groups, outdoor recreationists, landowners, government officials, businesses, and everyone who cares about the natural world. We need some sort of national, at least, preferably continental or even global, campaign or movement to reconnect wild Nature. A conservation corridors campaign would attract and benefit wildlife—from butterflies to trout to eagles to wolves–and people–from outfitters to hunters to birders to environmental educators and the children they teach.
Please read Big, Wild, and Connected, available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Powell Bookstore’s online stores, share my TrekEast story via Facebook, Twitter and emails and join the growing network to reconnect wild places with each other and people with wild Nature. Please also help us make TrekWest as successful and fruitful a Wildways mission as was TrekEast.
Your humble Wildways scout,