Tour of the Northern Rockies, Prairies, and Pacific Region through Local Authors

The Northern Rockies, Prairies, and Pacific region spans a variety of landscapes, which we invite you to explore through the narratives of the area’s local writers. We have compiled a short list of books which offer a unique glimpse into the heart and soul of our corner of the country. 

Through their words we can discover the intricate relationships between human and wildlife, past and present conservation efforts, and the connections and understanding we share with the wildlife and wildlands that surround us.

Halcyon Journey: In Search of the Belted Kingfisher

By Mariana Richie (Missoula, MT)

Mariana Richie dives into the world of the Belted Kingfisher, a species elusive as it is captivating. Our departure point is Rattlesnake Creek in Missoula, Montana, and from there, Richie covers the distance, from Oregon and the Rio Grande to London and South Africa in efforts to explore how these birds symbolize the mythic concept of the halcyon days. A tapestry of natural history, tribal stories, and memoirs, Richie takes readers with her on a search for the kingfisher. As the halcyon days emphasize the importance of the quiet of winter, Halcyon Journey is the perfect book to wait out these long winter days. 

Learn more on Mariana Richie’s blog website.

“A male flew in, a pinwheel of whites and thunderous blues. His flurry of notes pattered like rain.”

-Halcyon Journey: In Search of the Belted Kingfisher

Goodreads Review by Annis Cassells: “…Although Halcyon Journey explains aspects of science and holds science in esteem, it is not your run-of-the-mill “bird book.” It is a weaving of field notes and observations, history (natural and mythical), the author’s own origins as a naturalist and genuine caring for the natural world, and her modern story of prevailing in the face of obstacles, both personal and professional. I thoroughly enjoyed the Halcyon Journey and have given copies to some of my birding friends…”

A black, white, and reddish bird flaps its wings mid-flight against a bright blue sky.
Credit: James Parks

Beloved Beasts: Fighting for Life in the Age of Extinction

By Michelle Nijhuis (White Salmon, WA)

For an unexpected glimpse into the history of conservation in North America, Michelle Nijhuis reflects and examines the most important people and events that led to the current state of conservation efforts today. While she revisits some familiar characters, namely Aldo Leopold and Rachel Carson, she also questions contemporary conservation approaches. From success stories of whooping crane and bison, to indigenous rights, to trophy hunting, and colonialism, Nijhuis offers a fresh perspective and gives a sense of hope in environmentalism today.

Goodreads Review by Carrie Ann: I think this is my favorite book that I’ve read for my Conservation Nonfiction Graduate Seminar this fall. Excellent storytelling, well-researched, and full of new-to-me information! I appreciated the historical insight into the conservation movement. The insight provided here focuses on big names, but it also includes key players who are often overlooked in science courses– women, minorities, and those from the global south. I also appreciated the author’s ability to acknowledge the complexity of these issues while also presenting hope for the future.”

Learn more on Michelle Nijhuis’s book website.

The Grizzly in the Driveway: The Return of Bears to a Crowded American West

By Robert Chaney (Missoula, MT)

The grizzly–both awesome and fearsome–evokes a complex range of emotions. Given the grizzly’s increasing numbers back to its native home range, there’s not a better time to learn more about the complex relationship between humans and grizzlies. Author Robert Chaney sets out to examine the full story of the return of the grizzlies, from the perspectives of ranchers, tribal nations, environmentalists, and hunters. For those living in bear country, The Grizzly in the Driveway serves as an excellent guide to the intricate dynamics from the past and present between humans and grizzlies.

Read Robert Chaney’s Pulitzer Center author bio.

“Some people derive life-changing benefits from seeing a grizzly. What is that worth?” 

-The Grizzly in the Driveway: The Return of Bears to a Crowded American West
A dark brown bear with long claws runs through the snow.
Credit: Sam Parks

Goodreads Review by J. Coates: “The Grizzly In The Driveway covers an astounding amount of ground in a relatively short book. That it manages to do so while remaining concise, well-organized, and thoroughly interesting is quite an achievement. For a reader even moderately interested in the subject, this is a worthwhile read.”

Buffalo for the Broken Heart: Restoring Life to a Black Hills Ranch

By Dan O’Brien (South Dakota)

For fans of Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac, Buffalo for the Broken Heart may be next on your list. After converting from his cattle ranch in the Black Hills to raising buffalo, Dan O’Brien embarks on both a transformational journey of his views and of the land as he shares the challenges and triumphs of restoring his land through the reintroduction of buffalo. A love letter to the Great Plains and prairie life, O’Brien navigates the stress of ranching, land stewardship, and ecosystem restoration. 

Learn more on Dan O’Brien’s Wild Idea grasslands preservation website.

“You can only look forward to a South Dakota winter if, as with childbirth, remodeling a house, or writing a novel, you’re able to forget how bad it was the last time.”

-Buffalo for the Broken Heart: Restoring Life to a Black Hills Ranch

Goodreads Review by Barb Heart: “…A small book with the impact not heard of much…please a Must Read. Reality on the range at its best.”

Homewaters: A Human and Natural History of Puget Sound

By David B. Williams (Seattle, WA)

David B. Williams explores the natural and human history of Puget Sound, from Coast Salish communities who first lived in the area to the human effects on the Sound today. Williams gives new eyes to an area possibly overlooked. From examining the importance of oysters and herring to the iconic species such as orcas and salmon, this book guides you into the complex natural relationships and the delicate ecological balance of the Sound.

Learn more on David B. Williams’s author blog website.

Goodreads Review by Kelli Estes: “I started reading this book as I sat on a boat on the Salish Sea, and I finished it at home in a Seattle suburb. At both locations I paused in reading to look at the natural world around me — the bay full of sea grass and kelp but curiously lacking in starfish, the deep waters of Puget Sound where orcas exhaled mist into the morning air, or my local stream where red-bodied fish worked hard against the current — and I saw it all with new eyes…”

Three black and white whales swim just underneath the water's surface. Their dorsal fins can be seen.
Credit: Heather MacIntyre