Welcome to the National Wildlife Federation Book Club!

Everyone loves a good book! Photo by: Bryn Fluharty
When we’re not at work or playing outside, many of us here at the National Wildlife Federation love to read, especially when it’s a good book about the environment and nature. With that in mind, we wanted to create a forum to talk with you about books that examine the most pressing and important issues that impact wildlife and the planet.

On the first Friday of each month, we’ll publish our thoughts on the book. This will include some general observations and some thoughts on how the book’s themes fit into NWF’s overall mission. We then hope you’ll join in the discussion using the comments section of the blog to share your own thoughts about the book.

We’ll select works from hard-hitting environmental authors and include fictional tales that interweave their stories with ecological themes — books that engage and challenge us. We will choose cutting edge environmental books as well as books that talk about people’s connection to nature and the environment. We also plan to bring in guests who will discuss their work in the environmental literature field, to create an opportunity for you to interact with the authors themselves.

We look forward to discovering many new adventures in nature (and books!) with all of you!

April’s Book: The Big Burn by Timothy Egan

The Big Burn by Timothy Egan
One of the greatest gifts that our country has given us is the idea of conservation. During the dawn of the 20th century conservation was a new concept. The timber, mining and railroad industries were booming and with this new boom came a new threat to what was once untouched, pristine wilderness. Settlers rushed west in a mad dash to claim acres of pristine forests only to turn around and sell it to the highest bidder. Forests fell quickly during this wave of greed before Teddy Roosevelt, at that time the nation’s 26th president, recognized a great need to preserve these great resources for future generations and thus the concept of American conservation was born.

By 1910 the Forest Service was a mere 5 years old and comprised of a few scattered and poorly paid and respected foresters. That particular summer brought with it unusually dry weather which set the stage for what would be the nation’s largest forest fire in history.

In The Big Burn, Egan skillfully leads the reader through the Roosevelt years, introducing characters such as Gifford Pinchot, Roosevelt’s collaborator in creating the Forest Service and its first chief forester. From here the story delves into the social and political atmosphere that nearly ended the Forest Service. It then reaches the summer of 1910 and a blaze that will stretch across most of the West, reducing whole towns to embers and leaving a dramatic mark on the nation’s history and the way that we approach conservation.

Discussion: Friday April 6, 2012

On Friday April 6 we will begin our discussion of The Big Burn.

Food for Thought:
1. What themes in the book are still at play today (mining, forestry management…) and what can we take from this story and apply it to conservation today?
2. How does the fire impact conservation today (or does it impact conservation today)?

We’ll also post our second book, which we’ll discuss in May. For now, use the comments section here if you have any questions, or let us know if you have suggestions for books we can feature in the future.