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Wildlands Philanthropy

The Great American Tradition

This landmark book showcases the eco-heroism of people from all around North America who have protected the natural wildlands.

In the century since its designation, millions of visitors have entered the redwood cathedral that is Muir Woods National Monument, yet few know the dramatic story of how William and Elizabeth Kent saved the towering trees there by donating them to the American people. Rare is the early riser waiting for sunrise atop Maine's Cadillac Mountain who could name George Dorr, the man who exhausted his family fortune to create Acadia National Park. Similarly unknown is Mary Wharton, a botany professor at a small Southern Baptist college who used her life savings to assemble a sanctuary for the wildflowers she loved. These generous Americans, and thousands more like them, have bequeathed to future generations a priceless gift - the gift of wildness - consecrated in the form of permanently protected natural areas.

In Wildlands Philanthropy, a book grand enough to tell these inspiring stories, writer Tom Butler and photographer Antonio Vizcaíno take readers on a visually spectacular tour of preserved landscapes across the Americas and around the globe. From Alaska's coastal rainforest to the Florida panhandle, from the prairies of New Mexico to the plains of Namibia, behind each of these places saved for nature are people: Isaac Bernheim, a penniless immigrant to the U.S. after the Civil War, became a successful Kentucky businessman, and established a park that would be open to rich and poor of every race without distinction. The reclusive heiress Katharine Ordway helped create numerous prarie preserves with her anonymous philanthropy. Maine governor Percival Baxter bought and donated 200,000 acres around Mt. Katahdin for Baxter State Park, New England's largest wilderness area. Kristine Tompkins, former CEO of the Patagonia clothing company, funded the land acquisition for Monte León, Argentina's first coastal national park in Patagonia. Nancy Stranahan and Larry Henry were running a modest bakery/cafe when they had the audacious dream to promote wilderness recovery in southern Ohio, a dream that has become reality in the still-expanding Highlands Nature Sanctuary.

These and many other visionary conservationists appear in Wildlands Philanthropy, a collection of love stories about people and the land. The forty national and state parks, wildlife refuges, and private sanctuaries featured in the book represent the many thousands of natural areas that have been secured by American conservationists using their personal initiative and wealth. That living legacy - wild places saved forever - is worthy of celebration and emulation. In the diversity of people and areas profiled, Wildlands Philanthropy suggests that everyone, regardless of means, can join this great American tradition of individual action on behalf of wild nature.

More books from this author: Tom Butler