Sigurd F. Olson Nature Writing Award to be presented
In honor of the twentieth anniversary of the Yellowstone Wolf Reintroduction project, the Timber Wolf Alliance at Northland College is bringing Yellowstone’s lead biologist Doug Smith and award-winning author Gary Ferguson, pictured above, as the keynote speakers for Wolf Awareness Week.
“It is a great serendipity that brought these two speakers together for what promises to be a thought-provoking night, during this week devoted to appreciating and thinking about wolves and wilderness,” said Timber Wolf Alliance Coordinator Adrian Wydeven.
The two-part presentation will be held Thursday, October 15 at 7:30 p.m. at the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Ashland. Smith will talk about the wolves of Yellowstone; Ferguson will speak on the concept of “full ecology.” He will also be awarded the 2015 Sigurd F. Olson Nature Writing Award for his latest book, “The Carry Home: Lessons from the American Wilderness.”
Smith and Ferguson met in 1995, during the first year of the Yellowstone project, when they were responsible for erecting three chain link holding pens for the transplanted wolf packs, the two quickly united through task and their love for wilderness and wildness.
So much so, that Smith and Ferguson coauthored Decade of the Wolf: Returning the Wild to Yellowstone.
Smith plans to shed light on how a seventy-year absence of wolves in Yellowstone dramatically changed the ecosystem and how their reintroduction was vital to the region’s ecological stability.
Smith points out in a recent article for the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute magazine that although many of the issues in Yellowstone have been addressed, challenges for wolves remain. “Telling their story will be a big part of future scientific endeavors,” he wrote.
Ferguson will speak about expanding the modern conservation movement—an undertaking Ferguson says could benefit greatly from something he calls “full ecology.”
In The Carry Home, Ferguson chronicles his own recovery and healing in the American wilderness after his wife, Jane, died in a canoeing accident. The revitalized ecosystem of Yellowstone played an important role in Ferguson’s healing process.
“The sheer wildness of Yellowstone, had a lot to do with being able to stay in the present moment. By going into wildness, like Yellowstone, I was able to keep in touch where I was on this journey of grief,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson said he is honored to receive this award because Sigurd Olson was one of the first natural history writers to pique his interest in nature as a place and concept.
“To receive this award and to go into his home country is incredibly satisfying,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson hopes attendees of the presentation will walk away with a better understanding of the importance of preserving keystone species, such as wolves, in the future.
“Wolves continue to push us up against the question of how willing we are to embrace an inconvenient species in support of our long held claim that wilderness really really maters and that wild things have a place in America,” he said.
Wolf Awareness Week officially started in the state of Wisconsin in 1990, when less than two dozen wolves roamed the state and upper Michigan. Today, the observance is celebrated across the nation and in parts of Mexico and Canada.
In addition to this presentation, TWA will host an additional lecture and two workshops. For additional information on Wolf Awareness Week events, visit northland.edu/twa