Monday, November 24, 2014

My Wild Life: A Memoir of Adventures within America's National Parks by Roland H. Wauer

Readers with a taste for books about national parks and wildlife will know Roland H. Wauer for his 25 books and many articles published in journals, such as Southwestern Naturalist, Condor, and Summit Magazine. His titles are often very specifically focused on wildlife of a park or region. He has long had an interest in birds and recently has devoted much time and writing to butterflies. When I read The American Robin four years ago, I learned that he had been a ranger with the National Park Service, but I never realized how varied and important his work for the service had been. He recounts his career in My Wild Life: A Memoir of Adventures within America's National Parks.

For most of his career, Wauer had a job that most of us can only dream about. He spent many of his days hiking park lands, sighting, identifying, counting, and recording the birds and other wildlife along paths that he would retrace in another two weeks or a month. He also presented countless ranger talks and led park visitors along trails in some of America's most beautiful places. He also got to meet and work with leading naturalists to learn how to protect those places and their natural inhabitants. He must have suffered hot, cold, wet, sunburn, mosquito-bites, and soreness, but he does not complain about the physical hardships.

Wauer's biggest troubles were bureaucratic and political. He mentions them slightly without brooding in his mostly chronological account of his career, which began at Crater Lake National Park in 1957 and lasted until 1989 after he worked for three years in the Virgin Islands. Most of the time in between was spent in parks, like Death Valley, Zion, Big Bend, and the Great Smoky Mountains. For about five years during the Carter and Reagan administrations, he worked at park headquarters in Washington, DC, from which he was sent to many international conferences.

You know a book is effective when it moves you to action. Since having finished reading My Wild Life, I have read more of Wauer's books, worked on my bird lists, and pledged to visit more national parks, especially Big Bend. I read from an uncorrected proof. I look forward to seeing the finished book with Wauer's color photos.

Wauer, Roland H. My Wild Life: A Memoir of Adventures within America's National Parks. Texas Tech University Press, 2014. 288p. ISBN 9780896728851.

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