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

Scott Slusher – The Cowboys’ Cowboy Photographer

Scott Slusher – The Cowboys’ Cowboy Photographer


Scott Slusher

Scott Slusher is an Oklahoma native and Texas-based photographer who is best known for his stunning images of cowboys and life on working ranches. After seeing Scott’s work, it is crystal clear that he has a deep understanding of the ranching lifestyle and has invested more than his share of time out in the heat and dust, on horseback or in the branding pen. Given his immersion in the tough, hard-nosed world of ranching, you may be surprised to learn that Scott was trained as a fashion photographer and still works with a variety of big-name companies on their fashion and clothing line spreads.

So what allows Scott to have success in two worlds as diametrically opposed as ranching and fashion? Well, as you’ll hear in this interview, Scott has a habit of pursuing his interests with a single-minded intensity and curiosity, unafraid of getting in over his head, venturing outside his comfort zone, or working harder than expected. Combine those traits with endless energy and a knack for making friends with everyone he meets, and you’ll understand how Scott has managed to work his way onto iconic ranches, riding alongside and photographing some of the best ranch hands in the business.

Scott’s enthusiasm and love of people really come through in our conversation, so I know you’ll enjoy it. We talk about his childhood in Oklahoma and how his father’s work as a veterinarian and horse breeder shaped his outlook. We chat about his time as a photography intern and how he chose to dive head first into no-fun chores (like mopping the floor), and how that optimistic, high-energy approach has paid off time and again throughout his career. We also discuss how he broke into photographing cowboys, and how his respectful approach has allowed him to be accepted by ranch hands throughout the West. We cover a ton, so check out the episode notes for a full list of topics and links.

If you don’t already, be sure to follow Scott on Instagram at @slusherphoto—if you love the West and the ranching lifestyle, I can guarantee you’ll love his work. Hope you enjoy this episode.

All images courtesy of Scott Slusher


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed:
2:45 – How Scott describes his work
4:50 – Where Scott grew up
8:30 – Time working at a vet clinic
12:00 – Applying to art school in Dallas
14:00 – Finding focus in art school
18:00 – Work ethic during his first internship
22:30 – First time taking photos of cowboys
26:00 – Making folks feel comfortable during photo shoots
27:20 – How he broke into the cowboy culture
33:00 – Working at the Four 6s Ranch
36:15 – Importance of networking
40:00 – Close calls during ranch photography
44:45 – Close call during a rodeo
49:30 – Importance of social media in Scott’s career
1:04:00 – Important books
1:09:00 – Favorite films
1:14:00 – Words of advice to the listeners
1:15:00 – Connect with Scott 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

Teal Blake – At work, outside the studio

If you love art and the American West, chances are you’re already a fan of Teal Blake. His paintings of bucking horses, working cowboys, and the Western ranching lifestyle are some of the most authentic and creative around. Teal’s art is authentically Western because he’s so authentically Western—he has worked on ranches for all of his life, has ridden rodeo on the professional level, and has been making art since before he can remember. These unique life experiences, combined with a deep-seated drive to create original and striking art, meld together to make him one of the most genuine and fresh faces in Western art today.

Teal grew up in Augusta, Montana, the son of two creative parents who allowed him to roam free—fishing, hunting, and exploring the wilderness out his backdoor. During high school, he discovered his talent for bull riding and rodeo, and he pursued that passion for years, eventually competing on the professional circuit. Throughout all of his various adventures and life stages, Teal was continuously sketching and painting, and after several impressive showings at western art shows, he decided to make a go of it as a professional artist. Since then he hasn’t looked back, and his stature in the Western art world continues to grow.

We had an in-depth conversation in which we discussed Teal’s upbringing in Montana and Idaho, and how his artistic parents influenced his life and work. We chatted about his experience at art school, which ended with him flunking out, yet being the only one from his class to actually make it as a professional artist. We discuss his background in ranching and rodeo, and his process of transitioning into life as a professional artist. We also talk about the important role that external validation can play in a solitary creative endeavor such as painting. As usual, we discuss favorite books, favorite films, and his favorite place in the American West. We cover a lot in this episode, so be sure to check out the episode notes for all the topics and links to everything we discuss.

Images courtesy of Teal Blake


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed

2:45 – How Teal describes his work
3:33 – Process of becoming a professional artist
5:00 – Teal’s childhood in Montana
7:55 – Teal’s parents and their influence on him
9:35 – Early artistic influences
11:20 – Early artistic endeavors
12:00 – Move to Idaho and rodeo beginnings
14:55 – Decision to stop riding bulls
17:40 – Teal’s experience at college art school
21:30 – Transition from rodeo to full-time artist
24:00 – Teal’s first art show
28:00 – Teal’s daily routine and artistic phases
31:05 – Ranch work and its influence on Teal’s work
35:25 – Teal’s attraction to bucking animals — painting and riding them
38:20 – Biggest changes in Teal’s art over the past 10 years
40:33 – Challenge of creating new and original work
43:00 – Thoughts on the business of professional art
48:20 – Favorite books
52:10 – Importance of being humbled
53:10 – Raising kids in the internet age
56:50 – Favorite films
58:40 – Surprising hobbies
1:01:00 – Great advice Teal has received
1:02:15 – Favorite place in the West
1:05:50 – Teal’s advice to the listeners
1:07:45 – Connect with Teal online
1:08:10 – Chappin’!!

Information Referenced

Mike Reilly (Photo: Chris Douglas)

Mike Reilly is the Veterans Program Coordinator at Heroes and Horses, a Montana-based nonprofit that uses expedition-style horse pack trips through wild landscapes to help veterans overcome the challenges of life after the military. Prior to his work with Heroes and Horses, Mike was a Navy SEAL and served as a member of SEAL Team 1 in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn. As he was transitioning out of the military, he heard about Heroes and Horses and signed on as a student. The program offered a perfect blend of service, teaching, helping others, and adventure that spoke to Mike’s strengths and interests; after completing the program, he was hired as a full-time member of the team.

Heroes and Horses is not a vacation. It’s a rigorous and hardcore three-phase process that takes veterans with no prior horseback experience and, in the course of a summer, turns them into expert horsemen and wilderness travelers. Through the hard work and focus required to make it through the program, veterans are able to forge lasting bonds and discover a renewed sense of purpose—which gives them the skills and confidence to thrive in the civilian life as they begin their post-military lives. Amazingly, this program is offered at no cost to veterans.

Mike hard at work (Photo: Chris Douglas)

Mike was nice enough to take a break from a morning of training wild mustangs to chat with me about the program and his personal story. We discussed how he initially connected with Heroes and Horses and how it helped him through some of the challenges of post-deployment life. Mike explained the organization’s upcoming 500 Miles Project, in which they are training horses from the BLM’s Wild Mustang Program and planning to take them on a 500-mile ride later this summer. He also talks about his military career, and how a collegiate baseball injury was the catalyst that led him to pursue his dream of becoming a SEAL.

Mike is a humble guy with a deeply ingrained passion for serving and helping others, so I know you’ll enjoy this episode. I encourage you to check out the Heroes and Horses website, visit their GoFundMe page, and consider supporting their important work.

 

Photos courtesy of Chris Douglas


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed

3:20 – How Mike describes his work
4:00- Heroes and Horses explained
7:45 – Importance of the bond between the veterans and horses
9:10 – Why H&H so effective compared to “traditional” PTSD therapy
11:15 – The circumstances that led Mike to H&H
13:30 – Why Mike chose H&H over traditional channels of help
15:25 – Mike reaches out to H&H founder and E.D. Micah Fink
16:00 – Personal powerful moment during Mike’s student stint at H&H
18:30 – Mike’s attraction to the military
20:00 – From enlisting to trying out for the SEAL teams
22:40 – Why teaching suits Mike’s personality
24:00 – Personal mentors and heroes
25:00 – Importance of purpose and community
27:55 – Ensuring that H&H lessons stick when the students return to “real life”
31:00 – Success stories from H&H
32:35 – Val from Unbranded
33:55 – The 500 Miles Project
36:30 – The BLM’s Wild Mustang Program
39:35 – Training wild horses
42:25 – How Mike defines the word “conservation”
45:40 – Favorite books
46:55 – Favorite movies
49:10 – Favorite place in the West
50:50 – Mike’s request of the listeners

JeffAnnJeff Lee is the co-founder of the Rocky Mountain Land Library, a residential library located on a historic ranch in one of Colorado’s most beautiful and dramatic high country grassland basins. The Buffalo Peaks Ranch, as it is known, will eventually house a collection of over 35,000 books related to natural history, conservation, and the American West. These books will be dispersed throughout ranch in houses and agricultural structures that have been preserved and restored by a growing team of enthusiastic volunteers. The ranch will become a place where individuals can immerse themselves in a natural setting, surrounded by books, for days at a time to read, write, and work on projects related to the West’s unique landscapes.

The idea for the Land Library came to Jeff and his wife Ann (the library’s other co-founder) when they visited a residential library in Europe during the mid-1990s. Given their deep love of books and land, Jeff and Ann immediately saw the potential for a similar concept in Colorado that centered around the history and landscapes of the American West. More than 20 years and tens of thousands of books later, their vision has become a reality—the Rocky Mountain Land Library is open for business and continuing to grow and evolve.

For anyone who has listened to this podcast, you know that the Land Library is my dream come true—it combines ranches, conservation, nature, and books—so I was obviously extremely excited to chat with Jeff. In a little over an hour, we covered a ton of interesting information, including the project’s backstory, the history of the ranch, and Jeff and Ann’s long term vision for the Land Library. Of course, we discuss books, and Jeff has many excellent recommendations that were brand new to me. It’s worth noting that the Land Library is in the midst of the a fundraising campaign, so I encourage you to visit their KickStarter page, watch the video, and donate to the cause… I just did, so you definitely should too! Links to everything are in the episode notes.

If you love the West, love books, and love the land, I can guarantee you will love the Land Library and this episode. Enjoy!

Photos courtesy of the Rocky Mountain Land Library


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed

2:40 – How Jeff describes his work
3:45 – Back story on the Land Library
4:40 – Jeff’s introduction to the West
7:00 – Lake Powell, water, and differences between the East and West
7:55 – The early beginnings of Jeff’s book collection
10:55 – The initial idea for the Land Library
13:50 – Challenges of storing tens of thousands of books
17:00 – South Park, Colorado described
19:30 – Early search for a Land Library site
23:45 – Unique experience on a ranch versus pristine wilderness
25:45 – Current state of the Land Library
28:10 – Cook’s House restoration – Kickstarter Campaign
29:40 – History of Buffalo Peaks Ranch
34:10 – How Jeff defines “conservation”
35:30 – Interesting people and groups who have visited and volunteered at the ranch
40:00 – How Jeff and Ann were able to take the Land Library from an idea to reality
42:20 – Jeff’s recommended books about the West
44:45 – Recommended biographies
51:00 – The interconnectedness of historical figures
52:25 – Purchase these books at your LOCAL bookstore!!!
53:20 – Books that Jeff has gifted or recommended
57:40 – Jeff’s most powerful outdoor experience
1:00:10 – Favorite location in the West
1:03:30 – Jeff’s request of the listeners
1:04:40 – Connect with the Land Library online

* Please buy these books at your local bookseller!!!

 

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Connor Coleman

Connor Coleman is the founder of Resiliency Lands, a progressive, conservation-minded land management and advisory group committed to promoting ecological and resource resiliency. Prior to starting Resiliency Lands, he held a variety of positions closely connected to the land, jobs that would be on the wish-list of anyone who loves adventure and the American West—wildland firefighter, cowboy, bison manager, and conservationist, just to name a few.  Connor is currently based in Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley, and he resides on a spectacular ranch just outside of Carbondale.

You may be surprised to learn that Connor was not born and raised in the West or on ranches.  On the contrary, he grew up in Ohio, went to college in North Carolina, and after paying his dues in east coast conservation and earning two master’s degrees from Duke University, he headed West to focus his energy on western landscapes. Thanks to an insatiable curiosity, a rock-solid work ethic, a service mindset, and a willingness to insert himself into new and uncomfortable situations, Connor has carved out a professional niche for himself in Colorado doing rewarding, exciting, and important work.

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Connor during his firefighter days.

Connor’s education and unconventional career path can serve as a great blueprint for anyone who loves the American West and wants a life centered around land, conservation, and natural resources. When I was in my early twenties, I would’ve loved to meet a guy like Connor who could point me in the right direction. So in this episode, we talk in depth about his career and his ability to “put himself out there” to create exciting professional opportunities.  We dig deep into his thoughts on conservation in the West, as well as issues related to forest fires throughout the country.  Connor loves to read and learn, so he also has tons of great book and film recommendations.

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Connor enjoying evening fly fishing

We cover a ridiculous amount of information, so be sure to check out the episode notes below for the full list of topics we discuss. Enjoy!

All photos courtesy of Connor Coleman


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Episode Notes

Topics Discussed

2:32 – How Connor describes his work
3:55 – Importance of conserving working ranches
7:55 – Grazing as an vital part of conservation
13:40 – Examples of some of Resiliency Land’s projects
16:35 – Where did Connor grow up?
18:50 – Connor’s decision to make conservation a career
22:45 – Brief history of NC barbecue
25:00 – Early career in conservation
29:10 – Grad school at Duke
30:30 – Difference between conservation in NC versus CO
32:20 – How easterners misunderstand public lands in the west
33:30 – Time as a wildland firefighter
36:30 – Fire policy in the east versus west
40:00 – Longleaf pine book recommendations
41:15 – Adventures at Camp Lejeune
42:20 – Moving out west to work on ranches
45:40 – Challenges of adjusting to the demands of ranch work
48:30 – Working with bison on the Zapata Ranch
49:50 – Bison and bison book recommendations
55:20 – Transition to the Aspen Valley Land Trust
59:20 – Lesson learned working in conservation in different parts of country
1:01:20 – Thoughts on service and giving back to the community
1:06:15 – Favorite books about the American West
1:10:15 – Favorite films
1:12:50 – Surprising activities
1:14:35 – Craziest experience in the outdoors
1:18:45 – Favorite place in the West
1:20:20 – Biggest challenge facing the West
1:23:00 – Connor’s request of the listeners
1:25:15 – Connect with Connor online
1:25:55 – Bonus book recommendations!

Information Referenced

Connors Book Recommendations

Connor’s Film Recommendations