Jeffrey H. Ryan Hiker Author Photographer Speaker Podcaster Director

Voices of the Wilderness

Video Series takes us in Search of America’s Conservation Heritage

Those who have read my books and blogs find a deep appreciation for America’s history woven in. After all, every journey is an adventure in two dimensions: the present and—if we look closely enough—our past. That’s why I created the Voices of the Wilderness video series.

My parents taught me that an appreciation for history was an important part of being human. Something as important to carry with you though life as a map and compass.

The generational “passing of knowledge” is something I remember as important and poignant. I recall in great detail the day just weeks beyond my twelfth birthday when my mother pulled her hardbound copy of Walden from the family bookshelves and told me that, “It was one of the most important books she ever read.” Looking back, it’s no wonder that America’s conservation history became so important to me.

Each episode highlights a giant in America’s conservation history.

Keeping Stories Alive

The people who threw everything they had behind making the natural world a priority worth fighting for had a lot of lessons to teach us about priorities, perseverance and just plain wisdom that would be endangered if we didn’t revisit their stories. It’s just the kind of wisdom deserving of a refresher course as we navigate our way forward through daunting challenges.


Two Videos Complete, More to Come

I have completed two videos in the series:

Aldo Leopold: Birth of the Land Ethic features interviews held in the vicinity Leopold’s iconic Wisconsin property where he practiced (first in the world) prairie restoration and gained inspiration for his bestselling book, A Sand County Almanac.

My latest video, Howard Zahniser: Champion for the Wilderness highlights one of the least known and most influential conservation pioneers in American history. “Zahnie”, as he was known, gave everything he had to will the Wilderness Act of 1964 to passage. His efforts led to the protection of over 100 million acres of American wilderness. Zahniser’s son, Edward, graciously sat down with me to help keep the story alive.

I extend heartfelt gratitude to Dr. Mark Madison and his colleagues at the National Conservation Training Center, home of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and their national archive of conservation-related materials. All have been instrumental in helping me bring my series to fruition.

You can learn more about the series and view the films at VoicesOfTheWilderness.com. Please let me know what you think.

This Land Was Saved for You and Me

Prefer Your Stories in Print?

My latest book, This Land Was Saved for You and Me follows the arc of America's conservation history from the 1840s to the passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964. As with all my books, the narrative style keeps the story moving along and considers why the leading players in our country's conservation movement were so passionate about their causes and the need to set a course for future generations.

How the Appalachian Trail was Devised and Built

It is one of the world's most famous footpaths, yet transforming a celebrated "idea man's" vision to a physical entity spanning over 2,000 miles had as many twists and turns than the trail itself. The two prominent figures in getting it done were Benton McKaye, who came up with the idea and began building consensus, and Myron Avery, a bombastic, no nonsense manager who willed the project to completion. If you've ever wondered how such an audacious plan came to fruition, Blazing Ahead is the book for you.