My 10 Favorite Books of 2017

My 10 Favorite Books of 2017


2017 was a solid year of reading that played out even better than expected—I discovered some older titles that I should’ve read long ago, enjoyed some new releases that I’d been anxiously awaiting, and had the opportunity to meet and chat with several of my favorite authors. As usual, the books’ subjects varied widely, and I hard-headedly stuck to 100% non-fiction.

It was difficult (silly? pointless?) to try and pick the absolute best books I read last year, but below, in no particular order, is my feeble attempt at My 10 Favorite Books of 2017:


Cattle Kingdom: The Hidden History of the Cowboy West by Christopher Knowlton – The most entertaining and comprehensive history of cattle ranching in the American West that I’ve ever read… and I’ve read a lot on this subject. (November/December list)

Bad Land: An American Romance by Jonathan Raban – Interesting and new (to me) insights into the settlement of Montana’s eastern Great Plains, with an eye-opening emphasis on the role that corporations and the government played in convincing (i.e. tricking) would-be settlers to head West. (September/October list)

American Serengeti: The Last Big Animals of the Great Plains by Dan Flores – A “biography” of North American megafauna, including pronghorn, coyotes, horses, grizzlies, bison, and wolves. A must read for anyone who loves the American West. (July/August list)

Coyote America: A Natural and Supernatural History by Dan Flores – Coyotes are the most scorned large mammal in North America, yet they’re surprisingly the most human-like in their behavior. A wonderful overview of this fascinating animal and its complicated relationship with us humans. (May/June list)

On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder – A short and to-the-point historical examination of how well-meaning countries fell prey to fascist rulers and tyrannical governments. Timely reading in this day and age. (July/August list)

All Waves are Water: Stumbling Toward Enlightenment and the Perfect Ride by Jaimal Yogis – Part memoir, part meditation manifesto, and part surf travelogue, Yogis nails it again with his follow-up to one of my all-time favorites, Saltwater Buddha. (July/August list)

Free Will by Sam Harris – Harris argues that free will is an illusion and that no one is truly in control of themselves or their actions. I don’t want to believe this, but, despite my best efforts, it’s tough for me to poke holes in his rationale. (September/October list)

What Doesn’t Kill Us: How Freezing Water, Extreme Altitude and Environmental Conditioning Will Renew Our Lost Evolutionary Strength by Scott Carney – Since reading this book, I’ve taken a freezing-cold shower every day. And even after pushing the breathing exercises a little too far, passing out, and “bumping” my face on the floor, I’m still a huge fan! (March/April list)

Hellhound on his Trail: An Electrifying Account of the Largest Manhunt in American History by Hampton Sides – The true story of the nutjob loner who assassinated Martin Luther King Jr. and the ensuing international manhunt that followed. Hampton Sides never disappoints. (January/February list)

Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War by Robert Coram – A deep dive into the mind of an obsessed, unconventional, take-no-shit-from-anybody soldier, whose commitment to his craft changed the course of US military history. (March/April list)





Cate Havstad

Cate Havstad is a hat maker and farmer based in central Oregon whose abundant curiosity, creativity, and love of place have allowed her to transform her passions into a full-time and fulfilling career. As a hat maker, Cate’s unique style and unwavering commitment to quality have attracted customers ranging from music stars like Gillian Welch and Nikki Lane to hard-working ranchers and farmers throughout the American West. As a farmer, Cate and her partner are deeply committed to regenerative agriculture and the positive impact that their local efforts can have on a global scale. It’s safe to say she’s living a life guided by purpose and passion.

Born and raised in northern California, Cate was a driven athlete in her youth, as evidenced by her desire to be the first woman to play in the NBA (that’s the NBA, not the WNBA). As a young woman, a fortuitous series of events landed her in a hat maker’s workshop, where she applied that same focus and drive toward learning the craft of hat making. After accumulating experience and confidence as an apprentice, she struck out on her own and now creates some of the most sought-after, stylish, and functional hats on the market today. Cate’s life and work are closely connected to the landscape of central Oregon, and her other job as an organic farmer has given her a deep understanding of the role that regenerative agriculture can play in conservation, community building, and reversing climate change.

As you’ll hear in our conversation, Cate is extremely curious, well-read, and and knowledgeable on a wide range of subjects. We talk about her journey as a hat maker, and how she cultivates creativity and consistent production in a world filled with an increasing number of distractions. We discuss regenerative agriculture and how many people, including well-meaning environmentalists, don’t fully understand the importance of farmers and ranchers in the conservation movement. Cate is a devoted meditator and runner, so we talk about how both of those practices have improved her creativity and outlook. We also chat about Wendell Berry, Michael Pollan, Steven Pressfield, and how those authors’ works have impacted her life. There’s a lot to learn in this episode.

This was a fun conversation that could have continued for hours.  Be sure the check the episode notes below for links to everything we discussed—it’s a long list! Hope you enjoy!

Cate Havstad art piece by (former podcast guest) Teal Blake

Header photo by Amanda Leigh Smith, others courtesy of Cate Havstad


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed:

2:55 – How Cate describes her work
3:45 – How Cate began making hats
6:00 – Connection to music
6:50 – Cate’s childhood and early influences
8:20 – Leaving college to go on tour
10:25 – New influences of creative people
12:30 – Cate’s parents’ opinion of her taking a break from school
13:45 – Returning to school
15:00 – Goal of becoming a trail guide in Oregon
15:40 – Working as a hat making apprentice
17:40 – Cate’s decision to strike out on her own
20:50 – Advantages of working on simple equipment
22:10 – When Cate knew she could make a full-time career of hat making
24:40 – Havstad Hat Co fans, including Lyle Lovett
28:15 – Process oriented versus goal oriented
30:00 – Cate’s methods for cultivating creativity and her business
31:40 – Thoughts on Pressfield’s “War of Art”
33:45 – Cate’s meditation practice
40:00 – How teaching workshops has influenced her work
43:20 – How Central Oregon influences her work
45:20 – Experiences running in Central Oregon
47:00 – Cate’s experience farming
48:10  – Wendell Berry discussion
50:30 – Agricultural as a vital part of conservation
57:00 – Good books on connection to land
59:30 – Balancing social media and mindful living
1:07:40 – Favorite books
1:09:15 – Favorite documentaries
1:10:15 – Surprising activity
1:11:05 – Favorite location in the West
1:12:20 – Best advice ever received
1:13:20 – Request of the listeners
1:15:20 – Connect with Cate online
Information Referenced

(Note: In the spoken podcast intro, I mistakenly said that Lyle Lovett was a customer, when in fact he’s actually a big fan of Cate’s work. Cate’s customers include Gillian Welch, Nikki Lane, and a long list of other talented musicians and actors. Sorry for any confusion!)

Sarah King (photo credit: Roni Ziemba)

Sarah King is a rancher, conservationist, wife, and mother of two who lives and works on her family’s 55,000-acre cattle ranch in southern Arizona’s Altar Valley. The King’s Anvil Ranch was established in 1895 and has operated successfully within their family for generations, setting an example of how to run a financially viable agricultural business, while simultaneously protecting the long-term ecological health of their vast desert ranch. The Kings understand that in order for their business to thrive, the land must thrive, and they are leaders in pursuing a variety of outside-the-box land stewardship techniques, including the focused use of prescribed fires.

The King family spearheaded the creation of the Altar Valley Conservation Alliance, a cutting-edge land conservation organization that collaborates with a wide range of stakeholders, including private landowners, ranchers, government entities, conservation non-profits, and environmental advocacy groups. Thanks to focused, diligent efforts over the course of two decades, the AVCA has managed to bring together groups that have historically been at odds, allowing them to focus on shared goals and creative solutions to complicated challenges, rather than dwelling on their differences. As you’ll hear Sarah explain, AVCA understands that open, honest, face-to-face communication has been the key to tackling the Altar Valley’s complex challenges, and their success gives me hope that other organizations throughout the West can adopt their approach and enjoy the same success.

This was a very enlightening episode for me, because I personally just don’t know enough about the landscapes and heritage of the deep southwest. We dig into many of the details of the King’s Anvil Ranch and its operation, including the unique climate and ecology of the Arizona desert. Sarah explains how the AVCA came to be, and offers some insights into exactly what they do and how they’ve managed to have such success. We discuss Sarah’s personal background, specifically how an east coast native ended up on an expansive cattle ranch in Arizona. We talk about the benefits of raising children on a ranch, and the lessons she hopes to impart as they grow up closely connected to the land. Given that the ranch is located less than 40 miles from the Mexico border, we discuss how illegal border crossings have a significant effect on the ranch’s operations. And, of course, we discuss favorite books and documentaries, with links to everything in the episode notes.

I had such a great time chatting with Sarah, and I walked away from the conversation with a much deeper understanding of ranching, conservation, and life in the American southwest. She and her colleagues at AVCA are doing important, groundbreaking conservation work, so I encourage you to follow them and learn from their efforts. Also, be sure to follow Sarah on Instagram—on top of everything else, she’s a talented photographer, too. Enjoy!

Header photo courtesy of Sarah King, other courtesy of Roni Ziemba


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed:

3:30 – How Sarah describes her work
4:10 – King’s Anvil Ranch
5:20 – History of the ranch
7:10 – Details on the ranching operation
10:30 – History of Altar Valley Conservation Alliance
13:15 – Events leading to the Alliance’s formation
16:30 – Importance of fire in the Altar Valley
20:00 – Examples of AVCA collaborative projects
25:20 – Why has AVCA been able to be successful where others have not?
28:45 – Specific reasons for AVCA’s success
31:15 – The importance of private land in the West
35:30 – How Sarah ended up in the west, working in ranching
39:00 – Sarah’s college thesis on women dude ranchers
41:15 – Realities of moving West from the east coast
42:30 – Benefits of raising children on a ranch
45:30 – Sarah’s photography
47:15 – Illegal immigration and its effects on the King’s ranch
55:50 – Favorite books
57:55 – Favorite documentaries
59:35 – Surprising activities
1:00:30 – Most powerful experience in the outdoors
1:03:30 – Best advice ever received
1:05:00 – Sarah’s request of the listeners
1:06:00 – Connect with Sarah online
Information Referenced

Charles Post (Photo Credit: Rachel Pohl)

Charles Post is an academically trained ecologist with a gift for communicating complex and sometimes emotionally charged issues in a thoughtful manner to diverse audiences. Whether he’s discussing the intricacies of ranch management, the ecological implications of ethical hunting, or controversies surrounding the BLM’s wild mustang program, Charles has honed his ability to consider all sides of issues, then educate the public in a style that is positive, comprehensive, and intellectually honest. His academic credentials, combined with his photography, writing, filmmaking, and popular social media channels have made Charles a rising star in the world of conservation.  

Born and raised in northern California, Charles has enjoyed a deep connection with Western landscapes for as long as he can remember. He grew up hunting, fishing, and exploring the seascapes and mountain ranges of the West Coast, then earned both a Bachelors and Masters in ecology from UC Berkeley. After considering pursuing a PhD followed by a career in academia, Charles changed course and pursued a less traditional track that melded his two passions of science and storytelling. Since then, he has settled in Bozeman, Montana where he works on a wide range of projects that all tie back into conservation and stewardship in the American West.

Charles and I talked for well over an hour, and could’ve easily continued for several more. We discuss his recent work for Filson covering Ranchlands, a progressive, forward-thinking ranching operation in southern Colorado. We also chat about the ecological importance of ranching for Western landscapes and the progress that Charles has made trying to change some of the unfounded negative impressions of ranching and livestock. We talk about his recent elk hunt, and how that adventure was one of the richest, most meaningful experiences of his life. Charles speaks fondly about his relationship with Ben Masters, who helped him break into the filmmaking world.  It also turns out that we have a shared love of the American Dipper (which is a bird, for those of you out of the loop), and we nerd out on that subject for a few minutes. As usual, we discuss favorite books, films, and the best advice he’s ever received.

If you’re a long-time listener, you will love this episode… and if you’re brand new, I hope you will, too! Be sure to check out Charles on Instagram at @charles_post and check the episode notes for everything we discuss. Enjoy!

All images courtesy of Rachel Pohl


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed:

3:00 – Charles’s intro to Ben Masters
5:10 – How Charles describes his work
6:30 – Why Charles identifies as an ecologist
8:50 – Science versus communicating to the mainstream
10:30 – Charles experience with Ranchlands and thoughts on ranching
17:45 – How Charles tells the ranching story
20:45 – Resources for learning more about ranching
21:55 – Discussion about wolves’ effects on Yellowstone
24:35 – Where Charles grew up
25:50 – Charles’ connection to Gifford Pinchot
29:40 – Hunting from a conservation perspective
32:25 – Modern Huntsman
35:15 – Interplay between public and private land
41:40 – How science shaped his ability to be objective
43:40 – His approach to social media
49:45 – The importance of Charles’s sponsors and supporters
54:30 – Charles’s personal history with hunting
1:01:40 – Favorite books
1:08:10 – Weird habits and quirks
1:09:30 – American Dipper nerd-fest
1:12:20 – Most powerful experience in the outdoors
1:16:00 – Best advice he’s ever received
1:19:25 – Charles’s request of the listeners
1:20:50 – Connect with Charles online
Information Referenced

Tyler Sharp, Part II – Modern Huntsman

Tyler Sharp, Part II – Modern Huntsman


Tyler Sharp

If you’ve been listening to the podcast for a while, then surely you’ll remember Tyler Sharp. He’s the creative director, photographer, and writer who has explored everywhere from east Africa to Montana’s Paradise Valley and has the stories and images to prove it. He currently works with some of the biggest brands in the outdoor industry, such as Filson and Yeti, helping them to tell authentic and engaging stories. Tyler’s first podcast episode has been one of my most popular—we went deep, covering everything from big-game hunting to kung fu to conservation—so I wanted to have him back to continue the conversation and discuss his latest project, Modern Huntsman.

Modern Huntsman is a biannual publication and online forum for conservationists, creatives, and outdoor enthusiasts. If you enjoy this podcast and my guests’ depth of thinking on topics related to the natural world, then you’re going to love Modern Huntsman. Through thoughtful writing, captivating photography, and elegant design, Tyler and his all-star team intend to improve the perception of hunting in our society by highlighting its thoughtful and conservation-focused aspects, which are often ignored by established media.

I like to hunt, although I’m not obsessed with it like I am with endurance sports. But my work in conservation and deep reading of natural history have given me a firsthand appreciation for the importance of hunting, and the vital role it plays in conserving landscapes and species around the world. Without the efforts of visionary hunters like Theodore Roosevelt, the healthy wildlife populations we enjoy here in the American West would be a mere fraction of what they are today, if they existed at all. Thanks to their deep respect for wildlife born from their love of the sport of hunting, TR and his contemporaries set in motion a conservation ethic that continues to grow and evolve. Now, over 100 years later, Modern Huntsman will carry that ethic forward.

Once again, Tyler and I had a wonderful conversation, and I was incredibly impressed with his ability to discuss complex, sometimes emotionally charged issues in a respectful, intelligent, and non-arrogant tone. Of course we discussed the details of Modern Huntsman, its origins, and why there is a need for such a publication. We chatted about Modern Huntsman’s current Kickstarter campaign, which I highly recommend you support—links are in the notes. We also talked in depth about some of the misconceptions around hunting and specifics about why hunting is so important for conservation throughout the world. And just like last time, Tyler had some excellent book recommendations.

This was a fun and enlightening conversation, so I hope you enjoy. Check out the episode notes for links to everything, and be sure the check out the Modern Huntsman Kickstarter page, watch the film, and support the project.

All images courtesy of Tyler Sharp & Modern Huntsman


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed:

3:30 – How Tyler describes his work
6:10 – Modern Huntsman overview
8:40 – Improving hunting’s image
10:00 – Modern Huntsman as “new media”
12:00 – Tyler’s relationship with Simon Roosevelt
14:30 – Modern Huntsman’s target audience
16:30 – Misunderstandings surrounding hunting
20:30 – Modern Huntsman’s strategy for telling the correct story
22:00 – Importance of having a woman’s perspective
23:20 – Engaging with non-hunters
26:15 – Esthetics of the magazine
31:00 – List of the editors and contributors
34:50 – History of hunting and conservation
39:00 – Tools for connecting conservation and hunting
43:00 – How safari companies contribute to conservation in Africa
47:50 – The Kickstarter film
50:15 – Tyler’s favorite hunting books
58:10 – Best advice Tyler’s ever received
59:30 – Connect with Modern Huntsman online

Information Referenced

 

Duke Beardsley – Art in the Big, Bold American West

Duke Beardsley – Art in the Big, Bold American West


Duke Beardsley

Duke Beardsley was well on his way to a career in medicine, when, just before med school, he took a hard turn onto a new path when he decided to pursue art as a full-time vocation. Since then, he has become one of the West’s most revered artists, producing paintings of cowboys, anglers, and the Western way of life in a style that is uniquely his own. His work is big, bold, and completely original, and it continues to grow and evolve in ways that surprise even Duke himself.

Thanks to a childhood spent between Denver and his family’s eastern Colorado ranch, Duke has been immersed in cowboy culture for as long as he can remember. He has been drawing non-stop since he could hold a crayon, and as a child (sometimes to the dismay of his parents) he demonstrated a proclivity for sketching western scenes on the walls of his family’s home. Duke is also a committed conservationist with a deep devotion to preserving the West’s landscapes and heritage. This eclectic mix of experiences and interests, combined with a formal art education, allows Duke to produce works that are ambitious, inspiring, and engaging.

I stopped by Duke’s Denver studio earlier this week, where we had a fun and wide-ranging conversation. We chat about his decision to change his career goal from medicine to art, and the value he gleaned from a formal art education.  He explains that life-long obsession with drawing on walls, and he tells some stories about how, as an adult, drawing on walls has led to surprising professional opportunities. We talk about his artistic process, his meditation practice, and how he managed his extroverted personality in the solitary world of creating art. He also discusses why land conservation is an issue that is so near and dear to his heart, and offers up some excellent book recommendations.

This was a lot of fun and I really appreciate Duke inviting me into his studio. Be sure to check the episode notes for links to everything we discuss, and check out Duke on Instagram, Facebook, and his website.

All images courtesy of Duke Beardsley


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed:

2:40 – How Duke describes his work
3:30 – Growing up between Denver and eastern Colorado
5:15 – Artistic energy in Duke’s family
6:30 – Duke’s early path toward medicine
8:30 – Transition to art school
9:40 – Biggest lesson learned from art school
12:20 – Focusing his art on horses and the West
14:20 – Life post-art school
15:30 – How Duke’s art is different now from 20 years ago
18:30 – Drawing on the wall
20:20 – Why Duke paints big pieces
21:31 – Story behind Duke’s line ups
24:45 – Getting in “the zone” while painting line ups
26:40 – Working on multiple pieces at once
27:50 – Working with galleries
29:00 – Process for commissioned paintings
31:45 – Extrovert or Introvert?
34:30 – Duke’s artistic process
38:00 – Duke’s meditation practice
41:00 – Drawing on the wall at Las Pampas Lodge
44:00 – Working with Fishpond
45:50 – Passion for land conservation
49:30 – Favorite books
52:34 – Favorite films
54:00 – Surprising activities
54:45 – Most powerful outdoor experience
57:00 – Favorite place in the West
58:40 – Best peice of advice ever recieved
59:45 – Duke’s request of the listeners
1:00:30 – Connect with Duke online

Information Referenced

Innovators of the American West Book List

Innovators of the American West Book List


Over the past year and a half, I’ve interviewed dozens of innovators who are shaping the future of the American West—writers and ranchers, athletes and artists, conservationists and entrepreneurs, to name a few. While their vocations and backgrounds vary widely, they’re all connected by a shared love of books. All of my guests read widely and deeply, and they credit books with shaping their outlooks, work, and lives.

On each episode’s webpage, the exhaustive “episode notes” link to all books, authors, and other pertinent information discussed in the interview. So in an effort to consolidate all of this valuable information in one easy-to-access location, I compiled every book mentioned by each of my guests into this single comprehensive super-mega-list—the Innovators of the American West Book List. I’ve tried my best to organize them into logical categories, taking into account that many of the books span several genres.

As you’ll see, the books are as diverse as the guests, with topics ranging from the obvious western history and biographies, to more esoteric subjects such as military history, religion, and philosophy. Each book has played an important role in at least one of my guests’ fascinating lives, so it’s safe to say these books have been vetted and come highly recommended. rrr curious readers who love the American West, this list is a treasure trove.

I will continue to update this list after each new episode (last update: 1-5-18), adding newly mentioned books or authors to their respective categories. I hope this list directs you to some books that you would not have otherwise discovered and that you will continue to check back as the list grows. Enjoy!


Western History

Biographies & Memoirs

Western Issues

Adventure

Native American History

Land Management & Agriculture

General History & Natural History

Athletics

Personal Development

Fiction

Philosophy & Essays

Specifically Mentioned Authors

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Dan Flores

Dan Flores is a writer, historian, and former professor whose work explores the connections between people and the natural world in the American West. His most recent books—Coyote America and American Serengeti—are two of the most enlightening and informative books on the West’s natural history that I have ever read. The former is a biography of the coyote, a surprisingly fascinating animal with a rich and severely misunderstood history. The latter explores the last big mammals of the great plains—pronghorn, coyotes, horses, grizzlies, bison, and wolves—and also gives a great overview of North American big history.

It’s clear that Dan was a wonderful professor, because as you’ll hear in this episode, he has a real knack for explaining complicated subjects in a way that’s understandable, engaging, and exciting. This conversation gave me a glimpse into what it must have been like to be a student in Dan’s class at the University of Montana—I walked away from it full of new knowledge, and it whet my appetite to dig deeper into the many subjects we covered.

I could’ve asked Dan questions for hours and hours, but in our relatively short time together we managed to cover a lot. We start by discussing the coyote—how and why the animal has been so misunderstood, its similarities to humans, how it has managed to thrive despite efforts to totally eradicate the species, and the varying pronunciations of the word coyote. Then we discuss horses—the misconception that they are a non-native species in North America, their evolutionary history around the world, and some modern-day challenges facing the West’s few remaining wild horses. We also talk about Dan’s childhood in Louisiana, his current home in New Mexico, his favorite books on the American West, and much, much more.

This is an excellent episode and I’m excited for you to listen. If you haven’t already, buy Coyote America and American Serengeti—I can promise you’ll love them both.


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed

3:00 – How Dan describes his work
4:10 – History of the pronunciation of “coyote”
7:30 – Coyote’s historical reputation
11:00 – Coyote’s status in Native American lore
12:30 – Mark Twain’s influence on the coyotes’ image
14:05 – Coyotes as humans’ avatars
16:15 – Fission and fusion in coyotes
18:00 – Coyotes’ ability to control their reproduction
22:20 – Dan’s thoughts on the current attempted Federal Land grab
28:45 – Misconception that horses are non-native
34:30 – Current issues with horses in the United States
37:55 – Dan’s thoughts on the BLM Wild Mustang Program
40:15 – Dan’s early years in Louisiana
43:00 – First trip to Carlsbad Caverns
45:20 – Dan’s passionate love of desert
48:55 – Living in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley
51:00 – Changes in Montana during Dan’s time there
55:00 – “In Defense of the Ranchette” article
1:01:45 – Favorite books about the American West
1:08:00 – Most powerful experience outdoors
1:09:20 – Favorite place in the West
1:11:30 – Dan’s request of the listeners
1:15:45 – Connect with Dan

Information Referenced

Noel Durant

Noel Durant is the new Executive Director of the Crested Butte Land Trust, a conservation organization that protects and stewards the ranches, trails, open space, and wildlife habit of Colorado’s Gunnison Valley. Noel took the helm of the land trust in early 2017, and he brings a wide variety of conservation experience with him into this new role. He’s worked as a member of the Interagency Hotshot Crew, fighting fires across the American West. He has also worked for regional and national conservation organizations, doing everything from managing large swaths of rural land to developing urban trail systems.

Noel’s resume speaks for itself, but what is even more impressive is his intense curiosity and deep knowledge around all things conservation. Whether discussing the history of the Gunnison Valley or the ideas of Wendell Berry, it’s clear that Noel has a true passion for his work and a vision for the future of conservation in Colorado and beyond. His practical experience combined with abundant enthusiasm is what will allow him to continue and expand the work of Crested Butte Land Trust into the future.

As listeners of the podcast know, Crested Butte in one of my favorite places in the American West. Its ranching heritage, world-class recreation, and genuine community make it a unique and rare place in today’s American West. In our conversation, Noel explains what makes Crested Butte and the Gunnison Valley so special, and how the Land Trust must balance the goals of such a wide range of various stakeholders. He talks about the history of conservation in the Valley and where he sees conservation going in the future. We also discuss his time fighting fires throughout the West, how his early life and parents shaped his love of the outdoors, and lessons learned from his various roles in conservation.

This is an excellent episode with lots of interesting information, so be sure the check the episode notes for links to everything we discuss. I’m sure you’ll agree that Crested Butte Land Trust is in great hands under the leadership of Noel. Enjoy!


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed

2:35 – How Noel describes his work
2:55 – Crested Butte and the Crested Butte Land Trust
5:00 – Crested Butte compared to other mountain towns
7:00 – History of conservation in Crested Butte
11:00 – Variety of stakeholders and methods of conservation
16:30 – Overlap between ranchers and recreational users
19:00 – The community of the Gunnison Valley
20:15 – Early years in Tennessee
22:00 – Semester in western NC
23:50 – College at Clemson
27:00 – Time with the Interagency Hotshot Crew
29:00 – Details of a hotshot crew
33:00 – Community and purpose of the fighting fires
35:00 – Tragedies and challenges from the fire fighting world
39:45 – Moving on from fires to land conservation
43:00 – Time at Trust for Public Land
45:20 – Importance of open space in urban area
47:00 – Lessons learned from jobs in conservation
51:45 – Future of land conservation locally and nationally
56:45 – Favorite books
58:50 – Favorite documentaries
59:20 – Favorite location in the West
1:01:34 – Favorite hike in Crested Butte
1:03:00 – Best piece of advice he’s ever received
1:04:45 – Request of the listeners
1:05:45 – Connect with Noel and Crested Butte Land Trust

Information Referenced

Bryan Martin

Bryan Martin and Elizabeth Williams work at Big City Mountaineers, a Colorado-based nonprofit that transforms the lives of underserved youth through wilderness mentoring expeditions. Through partnerships with community youth programs around the United States, Big City Mountaineers exposes close to 1,000 youth per year to outdoor adventures in some of our country’s most spectacular public lands. Not only do these young people learn outdoor skills, but more importantly, they learn critical life skills while also improving their self-confidence, communication skills, and leadership abilities.

Elizabeth Williams

Prior to assuming his role as executive director at BCM, Bryan enjoyed great success with a wide variety of conservation and outdoor-related organizations including the Nature Conservancy, Continental Divide Trail Alliance, Colorado Mountain Club, and the Land Trust Alliance. Elizabeth was a teacher in India and Nepal before joining BCM as a marketing intern—10 years and a lot of hard work later, she has risen through the ranks and is now the Director of Programs. Bryan and Elizabeth share a deep enthusiasm for the outdoors and a belief that outdoor experiences can be transformative. Their passion for the work and BCM’s mission is palpable, so I know you’ll enjoy getting to know them.

I met Bryan and Elizabeth at the BCM offices in the American Mountaineering Center in Golden, Colorado, where we discussed BCM’s mission, the details of their wilderness expeditions, and why outdoor adventures can be such life-changing experiences. We chat about Bryan and Elizabeth’s professional backgrounds and learn what drew them to careers centered around the outdoors and service. They also tell a heart-warming success story in which a student overcomes her initial fears to thrive on a weeklong wilderness trip.

Thanks to Bryan and Elizabeth for taking the time to chat. Hope you enjoy!

 


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed

3:30 – Details of Elizabeth and Bryan’s roles at BCM
5:00 – Building teamwork through outdoor experiences
7:45 – Details of the wilderness expeditions
9:10 – Areas in which BCM operates
10:00 – Teaching students with no outdoor experience about wilderness travel
14:00 – BCM’s focus on personal development and critical life skills
15:50 – Ensuring the lessons stick when the students return home
17:00 – How BCM measures success
20:00 – Evolution of BCM’s measurements of success
22:45 – How BCM selects its mentors
25:00 – Areas where the expeditions take place
26:45 – Thoughts on public lands
29:00 – Elizabeth and Bryan’s personal backgrounds
34:30 – Bryan’s biggest surprise since becoming BCM’s E.D.
36:30 – Overarching lessons learned from their careers
40:40 – “Summit for Someone” program
44:45 – A recent BCM success story
49:00 – Favorite books
52:50 – Favorite documentaries
53:50 – Craziest/most powerful outdoor experiences
59:10 – Request of the listeners
1:00:40 – Connect with BCM online