In the role of Macduff, slaying the bloody king of Scotland, American Players Theatre

After dabbling with political science/pre-law, I graduated with a music degree and then spent my early career as an actor, mostly appearing in the plays of Shakespeare and other classical dramatists.

Perhaps it was the annual solo backpacking trips I took every year — to the likes of Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Badlands, the River of No Return Wilderness — that gave me the impetus to retire from the stage and start writing about nature.

At the summit of Long’s Peak, the only “fourteener” in Rocky Mountain National Park

As much as I loved the vast mountains and desert lands of the west, however, the best part of every backpacking trip was was crossing the Mississippi River back into my home state of Illinois. As a writer, I’ve found myself most attracted to the remnant prairies, wetlands and woodlands of The Prairie State and have been exploring and writing about them for years.

Force of Nature: George Fell, Founder of the Natural Areas Movement is the biography of an extraordinary man whose efforts to protect natural lands in Illinois launched a movement to protect lands across the country and eventually throughout the world.

I am currently at work on my next book. A Midewin Almanac takes its inspiration from Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac. Like Leopold, I divide my book into three sections. In Part I, I share some of my experiences as a volunteer at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, the most ambitious tallgrass prairie restoration effort in the country. In Part II, I chronicle the histories of the major eras of Midewin, beginning with its geological origins and ecological evolution since the retreat of the last glaciers 14,000 years ago. Next follows the human history: ten thousand years of Native-American occupation and use, 150 years of farming, 50 years as an arsenal, and the first 25 years recovering the namesake feature of the Prairie State.

In the third section, I step back and reflect upon what Midewin means within the evolution of the American Conservation Movement. I take a look at what Midewin says about our evolution as human beings – our values, our morals, our ethics. In other words, how much progress have we made since Leopold first introduced his idea of the “land ethic,” that land is not so much something we own as a community to which we belong, something we have long abused but which both needs and is worth of our love.

Beyond the door of an ammunition bunker, 20,000 acres of land awaits its return to its tallgrass prairie origins at Midewin.