Friday, October 28, 2016

The Latest: Vital Ground, HCN and a Big Opportunity

The summer rushed by. There were idyllic backpacking trips into the deep and jagged and trouty Montana wilderness. There were inspiring, joyful, sleep-later reunions with friends and family in Minnesota, New Mexico, New England, Idaho. And there was, tucked into the folds, a communications internship in Missoula with the Vital Ground Foundation, a spirited little land trust working to save grizzly bears one conservation easement at a time.

We're knee-deep in autumn now, cold nights and the World Series and larch and aspen and cottonwood popping out gold on the riverbanks and mountainsides. Last week, as I read Camas submissions from a coffee shop window, I saw the first long stringing V of Canada geese pointed due south against a slate sky. Fall is always a hopelessly nostalgic time. I put on my parents' old Bill Staines records, watch the land and weather change tangibly with each shortening day, and think back to those sprawling childhood autumns of jumping in leaf piles and covering the garden for the next hard frost. But there has been plenty of looking forward this fall, too. Here's an update on recent writing projects and an exciting one that lies ahead:

  • Alvord Lake Community Forest: This was my big summer piece for Vital Ground, telling the story of a chunk of Montana forest slated for subdivision that has now become a community-run forest. The full-length version is available on Vital Ground's website.
  • High Country News! Years ago, HCN became my go-to for informative reporting and illuminating writing about land and culture in the West. It was an honor to have them publish a shorter op-ed version of the Alvord Lake piece.
  • Great Burn Proposed Wilderness: One of those dreamy summer backpacks took me into the Great Burn, a rugged 1.8-million acre area in the Northern Bitterroots that conservationists have been seeking to protect as wilderness for the last 40 years. Afterward, I wrote a letter to the editor of the Missoulian about not forgetting wilderness protection as we celebrate the National Parks' centennial.
  • The Artists Field Guide to Greater Yellowstone: This is the exciting one lying ahead. My friend Katie Holsinger has embarked on an inspiring project to create a field guide "told through the words and artwork of fifty of the region’s most distinguished storytellers." I hardly qualify under those criteria, but I was thrilled to have Katie offer me a last-minute spot as a fill-in writer for the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. There are some big names involved with this thing, and I'm very honored and excited to contribute. Stay tuned for more updates!
Early fall colors from a second trip into the Great Burn.