Stoking The Campfire: Wildway Rambles Winter 2019
Occasional opinionated update or peripatetic field notes from Rewilding Earth editor and scout John Davis
Discontinuities happen, so let us not assume – even during this bleak political time — that Earth is doomed to continued degradation and species extinction. Along with better brews and bread, one of the promising, rejuvenating trends of recent years has been the growth of rewilding as a theme of conservation work.
This growth owes largely to our founder, Dave Foreman, who coined the word ‘rewilding’ nearly a quarter century ago. Some of this growth, however (such as when ‘rewilding’ is applied to men’s drumming circles and other personal transformation efforts), rather annoys our brilliant but sometimes curmudgeonly founder. Rewilding Earth, Dave’s friends’ answer to his call to revive Wild Earth, was begun partly to make sure ‘rewilding’ remains first and foremost about protecting and restoring wild Nature, which, yes, will benefit from people reconnecting with their animal selves and with the wild around them, but is not primarily about us meddlesome hominids.
Thankfully, Dave, while convalescing (about which more below) has told his fellow Rewilders how pleased he is with our progress. Rewilding Earth is emerging as powerful forum for the rewilding community and movement, through our online pub and podcasts. We’ll soon expand our reach (even unto Luddites!) through our first annual book anthology Rewilding Earth Unplugged. To that end, Dave – known for his infrequent but effective “shameless pleas for money” — would want me to remind folks that we depend on readers’ and listeners’ generous support to continue providing inspiring articles and art in Rewilding Earth, and we are grateful for your contributions. As discussed in our annual fund-raising letter, which you should have received a month or so ago – and to which many of you have already responded very generously — we are also raising resources for our focal campaigns: Mexican Wolf recovery in the Southwest, Mogollon Wildway, Puma recovery in the East, Split Rock Wildway, linking conservation activists with population planning advocates and with conservation biologists, and a rewilding summit.
A word about using Rewilding Earth: We’ve already, in our first year, posted nearly a hundred articles and a dozen podcasts, so a new reader might at first have trouble finding the particular pieces she wants. Our digital director Jack Humphrey has solved that problem by adding an efficient search function to our website. So, say you want to find Luli Masera’s article on Rewilding Argentina or Nicole Rosemarino’s article on Bringing Back the American Serengeti, simply enter the author’s name or article’s title or subject matter into the search bar, and you should find your article. We are organizing Rewilding Earth thematically along the lines of what it would take to actually protect and restore at least half of Earth as wildlife reserves; so another way to browse Rewilding Earth is to find the category (or “plate” as we call them, as in plate tectonics) and look under its headings. (Currently found in the large green area on the front page of the site.)
A few more notes on our core team of editors and activists: Dave “Smilodon” Foreman has been noticeably quiet in public of late, you likely noticed. Dave was increasingly suffering from back pain last year, from a bad fall and subsequent surgeries years ago. The discomfort grew acute, until in mid-December, Dave was rushed to the hospital, in excruciating pain. Turns out, Dave had a potentially deadly infection in his spine, perhaps from one of the past surgeries. Thank goodness, Dave’s wife Nancy Morton (New Mexico Wilderness Alliance board president) is a retired professor of nursing, and is now overseeing his slow but steady recovery. Nancy administers his antibiotics daily, and he may need them for a long while to fend off reinfection; but he has returned to work, and will be penning Campfires and giving his classic wildfire and rimrock speeches again soon. If you wish to send Dave a get-well note, you are welcome to do so through our post office box: P.O. Box 13768, Albuquerque, NM 87192.
Others of us have remained mostly healthy, notwithstanding excessive time on computers in our year of revitalization. Many of the Rewilding team, in addition to Dave Foreman, are available to give talks and write articles and suggest work projects and otherwise represent Rewilding; so please do not hesitate to invite us, even during the healing period when Dave may not be available for public speeches.
As rewilding gains ground, there are spreading conversations about the need for some rewilding summits and conferences, to plot strategy and share lessons and stories. The Rewilding Institute is talking with several groups about convening such meetings, about which we’ll say more soon. For now suffice to say, The Rewilding Institute will be lighting the campfire when these gatherings happen; and we’ll make sure the stories told speak good words for all our wild neighbors, including those big toothy ones who long ago would linger near our campfires but these days are too oft persecuted.
For the Wild!
~John Davis, Executive Director
John Davis is executive director of The Rewilding Institute and editor of Rewilding Earth. For Rewilding, he serves as a wildways scout, editor, interviewer, and writer. He rounds out his living with conservation field work, particularly within New York’s Adirondack Park, where he lives. John serves on boards of RESTORE: The North Woods, Eddy Foundation, Champlain Area Trails, Cougar Rewilding Foundation, and Algonquin to Adirondack Conservation Collaborative.
John served as editor of Wild Earth journal from 1991-96, when he went to work for the Foundation for Deep Ecology, overseeing their Biodiversity and Wildness grants program from 1997-2002. He then joined the Eddy Foundation as a board member and continues to serve as volunteer land steward for that foundation in its work to conserve lands in Split Rock Wildway. This wildlife corridor links New York’s Champlain Valley with the Adirondack High Peaks via the West Champlain Hills. John served as conservation director of the Adirondack Council from 2005 to 2010.
In 2011, John completed TrekEast, a 7600-mile muscle-powered exploration of wilder parts of the eastern United States and southeastern Canada—sponsored by Wildlands Network and following lines suggested in Dave Foreman’s book Rewilding North America—to promote restoration and protection of an Eastern Wildway. In 2012, John wrote a book about that adventure, Big, Wild, and Connected: Scouting an Eastern Wildway from Florida to Quebec, published by Island Press.
In 2013, John trekked from Sonora, Mexico, north along the Spine of the Continent as far as southern British Columbia, Canada, again ground-truthing Rewilding North America and promoting habitat connections, big wild cores, and apex predators—all of which would be well served by fuller protection of the Western Wildway he explored. John continues to work with many conservation groups to protect and reconnect wild habitats regionally and continentally.
John is available to give public talks on rewilding, conservation exploration, and continental wildways, as well as to write and edit on these subjects. He is also available for contract field work, particularly monitoring conservation easements, documenting threats to wildlands, and marking conservation boundaries. He can be reached at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org (for his land-care work).