The Big Burn

The Big Burn by Timothy Egan
The Big Burn takes us from the beginning of the conservation movement with Teddy Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot through the haphazard forest management at the beginning of the 20th Century and on to the Big Burn and its aftermath.

Please use the following questions to guide you through a discussion of the book, which you can join by sharing your thoughts and questions in the comments section below.

  • The Forest Service plays a central role in the book with dedicated members of the service giving everything to try to prevent the fire and minimize the damage once it had begun. Today much of the work done by the forest service is focused on fighting wildfires. Have we learned from the Big Burn or are we following a similar path? How should Climate Change factor into this?
  • Profiting off of timber from the forests is a central issue in the book. Should the forests be managed for profit from timber or preserved? Is there a middle ground? How should we factor in other benefits such as carbon sequestration, water quality and recreation?
  • Teddy Roosevelt, Gifford Pinchot and John Muir talked about the inspirational landscapes and forests of the West that lead them to lives dedicated to conservation. Is exposure to the outdoors a necessary element to conservation and if so what are the implications of today’s youth being removed from nature?
  • Did we learn from the fire? Are there any parallels between what Teddy Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot were fighting against and what modern conservationists face today?

Thank you for joining in our book club, we look forward to discussing these books with you!

April’s Book

The Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv
In April we will investigate the disappearance of nature from the lives of today’s children in Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louve. Louve discusses what he calls Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD). The book reviews the importance of nature in a child’s life and the hurdles that we must overcome if we are going to put nature back into the lives of children.
Helping kids get back out into nature is imperative for the physical, emotional and spiritual health of children. Exposure to nature as a child is also a critical component to conservation as it can inspire a new generation of conservationists.

Discussion: May 4th

Here are a couple of things to think about while reading the book:

  • Do you see that children in your own life are removed from nature?
  • What experiences in your childhood impacted how you feel about nature?

The National Wildlife Federation is dedicated to reconnecting kids and families to nature through our Be Out There campaign.