Conservationists With Common Sense (CWCS)

CWCS Suggested
Reading List

The Voyageur's Highway: Minnesota's Border Lake Land - by Grace Lee Nute
Excellent early history of Minnesota's northland. From Lake Superior to Lake of the Woods, with a look at the way of life of voyageurs and fur traders.

Saving Quetico-Superior: A Land Set Apart - by R. Newell Searle
Covering the years from 1927 to 1964 in establishing a wilderness preservation idea and how it affected numerous people with the creation of the Boundary Waters. Read about what could have happened to our country's most popular wilderness area had the plan to dam up the Ontario/ Minnesotan border waters to produce electricity been carried out. Many Ely people had key influence or sacrifice in what is now known as the Boundary Waters.

The State of Fear - by Michael Critchton
A fascinating book that coincidently came out weeks before the tsunami hit Thailand in December 2004, is a great commentary on today's environmental movement. This nonfiction thriller is fast paced and will have you questioning just what is real and what is not in the environmental movement of climate change, and the role the media has in all this.

Lob Trees in the Wilderness - by Clifford and Isabel Ahlgren
The classic account of human impact on this vast wilderness area.

"A fine, perceptive exploration... The wilderness is the Boundary Canoe Area of northern Minnesota, and 'lob trees' are used as a poetic way to link the results of historical and ecological research in this setting. This is a well-illustrated book, built to be carried in hand or pack, as one travels through the lands under discussion." The Canadian Field-Naturalist

"There is no one more qualified than the Ahlgrens to describe the ways human beings have affected the forest of this area." Journal of Forest History

Clifford and Isabel Ahlgren have retired from forest ecology after working many years at the Wilderness Research Foundation on Basswood Lake near Ely, Minnesota.

Goodbye Green: How Extremists Stole the Environmental Movement from Moderate America and Killed It - by Glen A. Duncan
Duncan's work is important in two ways: first, in documenting the disintegration of grassroots interest and involvement in the environmental movement per se, and secondly, in providing another piece of evidence to evolving theories of collective action. Reminiscent of movement analyses of the 1960s and 70s, Duncan's work focuses on the fatal flaw of large scale movement-building: changes in the purpose and message that inspire grassroots involvement, and eventually, corruption and even abandonment of the "cause" in favor of a quest for resources and manpower simply to keep organizations alive. The inevitable theft of power from the ordinary citizen by competing environmental oligarchies signals a brief rise in momentum followed by the death of the grassroots movement.

Trouble Waters - by Kevin Proescholdt, Rip Rapson & Miron L. Heinselman
An in your face, arrogant account of how the Friends of the Boundary Waters managed to get the 1978 BWCA Wilderness Act passed. It started in 1975 with an idea to possibly rename the center section of the Boundary Waters as a National Recreation Area because it didn't fit the description of true wilderness. The area had been logged and had been populated with numerous resorts and cabins before the 1964 Wilderness Act that allowed the continued established uses of motorboats and snowmobiles, and the continuation of the three truck portages.

Green Spirit: Trees are the Answer - by Patrick Moore
Written by one of the original founders of Greenpeace, and now considered a pariah by his former colleagues for his rejection of unfounded environmental extremism. Green Spirit - Trees are the Answer, gives us new eyes with which to see the land, exploring the beauty, biodiversity and spirit of forests growing back after logging. Contact Moore at: to order a copy.

Canoe Country: An embattled wilderness - by David Backes
Account of battles fought in creating the Boundary Waters with an acknowledgement that the wilderness label doesn't fit. To quote the author, "If wilderness is meant to help those who are searching for meaning, for spiritual truths, how can we justify condemning those who see differently? In doing so, we prove that we do not seek pure truth in wilderness, but only justification of our selfishness and prejudices. To paraphrase Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk best known for his book The Seven Storey Mountain, we promote an us vs. them attitude because if we can convince ourselves that they are wrong and we are right, then our lies and partial truths become whole truths, and our intolerance and greed become virtues."

Root Beer Lady - by Bob Cary
The story of the Boundary Waters 'first lady' - Dorothy Molter - and the last resident of the Boundary Waters. Living on the Isle of Pines on Knife Lake, Dorothy's door was always open to canoeists in the summer and the offer of cold, homemade root beer. In the winter, there was always a pot of steaming coffee brewing on the wood cook stove to warm cold snowmobilers.

Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature - Edited by William Cronon
Nature or people? The aim of legislating humans out of the wilderness is no solution to our environmental problems, argues this book - a timely reassessment of the environmentalist agenda by outstanding historians, scientists, and critics.

Undue Influence - by Ron Arnold
David Ridenour, National Center for Public Policy Research, Washington, D.C. "Undue Influence" reveals the threat to industrial civilization posed by environmentalism. The amount of money being spent from such an unpublicized direction is cause for alarm by itself. What it's being used for -- dismantling roads, dams, logging, mining, ranching, farming, and fishing -- is truly frightening. This book should galvanize the public to action .

The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World - by Bjorn Lomborg
   The Skeptical Environmentalist is an interesting book that concludes that many environmental movement's "doom and gloom" predictions are misleading and exaggerated. Lomborg, a former member of Greenpeace, is critical of the way in which many environmental organizations make selective and misleading use of the scientific evidence.
   The Skeptical Environmentalist offers readers a non-partisan stocktaking exercise that serves as a useful corrective to the more alarmist accounts favored by campaign groups and the media. It is essential reading for anybody with a serious interest in current environmental debates.
   Lomborg's book has not gone unnoticed by mainstream environmental groups. In January's Scientific American, an 11-page editorial attack was printed against The Skeptical Environmentalist. Scientific American threatened a lawsuit when Lomborg ( and the Greenspirit ( websites printed the attack, along with Lomborg's response. Scientific American had offered a mere one-page response in a future publication.

Down from Basswood: Voice of the Border Country - by Lynn Laitala
   Down from Basswood is a compilation of stories of the Native Americans and Finnish immigrants of the northern region of Minnesota. It tells how lives were carved out of the rugged North Country, living off the land - fishing, hunting, trapping, ricing, and berry picking. Stories of how Native Americans were driven from their lands and forced to live on reservations after the government destroyed their villages on Basswood Lake.
   Laitala mixes fact with fiction, weaving stories with insight, humor and a great understanding of the culture of these first tenants of Northern Minnesota. Included are a few stories about Sigurd Olson's first canoe trip and how he came to realize 'that there had to be a way to make money off this country.'
   This is the history of the North Country. A history we shouldn't forget.

Words from Lynn Laitala
   Since Sigurd Olson, wilderness propaganda has promoted the border lakes region as a land set apart, empty of human community, where tourists can experience solitude. The people it raised and nurtured remember those lakes and woods as home. It was home to many peoples, from many parts of the earth. The land and the water were their common source of sustenance. The communities they created were as beautiful as the lakes and forests, rich in diversity, founded on trust.
   The propaganda of the campaign for wilderness legislation has denied the history and values of the inhabitants. Among ourselves we tell what it was like - sharing memories of the time when we could stash a boat, tow a canoe, leave our cabins open with matches and firewood for stranded travelers. A time when we greeted all we met in friendship.
   I have tried to recreate a glimpse into that past through fiction. Down from Basswood follows the stories of three generations of families from 1900 to 1978. Each character tells their story. Together they sketch a history of the place.

Down from Basswood can be ordered for $17 ppd. From:
10549 Grange Rd NW
Bemidji, MN 56601

Mittens in the Boundary Waters - By Larry Ahlman
   Set in the 1930s, Mittens in the Boundary Waters is a story about a big, hefty buffoon, Charles Perkins. Known as Mittens because of his penchant for wearing big gloves on his cold-sensitive hands, he was a fellow from St. Paul, MN in search of his dream like so many people, even today.
   Whether fact or fiction, Mittens in the Boundary Waters is a good read about the tough times of living off the land and realizing that the solitude of the wilderness isn't always your friend.

Mittens in the Boundary Waters is available in bookstores or may be ordered by phone for $14.95 ppd. Call 800-552-6531.