When people ask how he came to work in the field of conservation, Thomas C. Bailey has been known to respond that it was because, at the age of five, he saw a bald eagle. From then on, he was hooked. Growing up on the shores of Lake Superior with a father who was a wildlife biologist, Bailey has concern for the natural world in his blood.
While still in high school, he spoke before the US Senate Interior Committee in favor of declaring Michigan’s Isle Royale National Park a federal wilderness. He has since had a long career devoted to the care and preservation of the environment, most recently as the executive director of northern Michigan’s Little Traverse Conservancy, where he was known for his ability to bring together people of widely divergent political views to rally around issues they have in common.
“Some of our area’s most notorious environmentalists, as well as the most notorious developers, serve on our board of trustees,” he writes, calling the land conservancy movement a “ray of light” in a public policy landscape marked by contention and name-calling.
Bailey’s essays touch on topics as diverse as hunting; the effect of property taxes on land and land ownership; how taking a more sensitive, even shamanistic, approach to the land could counter current extractive and abusive practices; and how contact with nature is important to human health and well-being and is a shaper of our character and culture.
Bailey warns that the sacrifice of irreplaceable wild lands for short-term profit is both foolish and irresponsible; the private conservation movement, he writes, “has a key role to play in keeping nature close at hand to remind us all who we are and from whence we came.”
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