Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Review of Chris Bolgiano's The Appalachian Forest

Review of The Appalachian Forest, A Search For Roots and Renewal by Chris Bolgiano (Stackpole Books, 1998, 280 pages)

Book on the left, Shavers Fork on the right
I was born and have spent most of my life in the Appalachian Mountains. They are my second home, yet Chris Bolgiano provided me not only with a refreshing review of the region and the environmental threats related to its forested areas  but also abundant new information. She tied it all together with a well written, informative, and entertaining narrative. I highly recommend her book.

Of all the federal land in the southern Appalachians, I am most familiar with the Monongahela National Forest, but I am also familiar with Shenandoah National Park, the Nantahala National Forest, and The Pisgah National Forest.  Thanks to Bolgiano, I am now also familiar with other federal lands in the Appalachian mountains, how these lands contain and preserve some of the last remnants of the once Great Appalachian Forest as well as the hope for the emergence of a new Great Forest, and threats to the forest from clear cutting, strip mining, acid rain, and development.

Bolgiano reminded me that forests are more than trees. In addition to a thorough discussion of the American Chestnut and other trees indigenous to the Appalachians, she provides an  overview of some of the flora and fauna other than trees that inhabit this ecosystem, including ginseng, salamanders, black bears, and the mysterious “balds” unique to many Appalachian summits. She also provides a history of some of the people associated with the southern mountains, including the Scots-Irish “who formed the backbone of the Appalachian mountain culture,” and the Cherokee, some of whose descendants still live on a reservation in the area. I also met contemporary white water rafters and kayakers, mountain bikers, and environmentalists in the books pages.

I was fortunate to read the entire book over a four day period while camped along the banks of Shavers Fork, one of the longest and best native trout streams in the heart of West Virginia’s Monongahela National Forest. The setting, I am sure, added to Bogliano’s informed but not overly scientific yet engaging style to provide me with an enjoyable read.

This post is an edited version of a post that originally appeared on The Trek.

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