Review: The Feather Thief

Beauty, obsession and the natural history heist of the century
The Tring Museum’s press release announcing the theft included this photo of the species of birds the thief—or thieves—had targeted the most: Indian Crow, Resplendent Quetzal, Blue Chatterer, and Birds of Paradise, several of which had been collected by Alfred Russel Wallace. Detective Inspector Fraser Wylie of the Hertfordshire Constabulary offered a number of theories about how the stolen birds might be used—for dressmaking, costume jewelry, or fishing lures—and asked collectors to keep an eye out for these species (photo: Natural History Museum, London).

The Feather Thief, by Kirk Wallace Johnson proves the old adage that "truth is stranger than fiction." Though entirely non-fiction, The Feather Thief reads like a novel. As a novelist and short story writer, I sure wish I could've come up with this plot. While the crime around which the story revolves is one related to fly fishing, Wallace's account focuses much more on conservation. You definitely do not need to be a fly fisher to enjoy this book.

Famous rivers, silent streams

Would you rather fish well-known rivers or anonymous creeks?
Photo: Todd Tanner

We all have our favorite streams. For some folks, it’s a pristine mountain creek dropping down through a remote, forested valley. For others, it’s a pretty little stretch of water just past the edge of town, a place where they’ve fished a hundred times and, with a bit of luck, will fish a hundred more. Easy access helps breed familiarity, and familiarity builds intimacy; it’s all about that personal, ongoing connection with the local landscape. And then, of course, there are the myriad anglers who enjoy famous waters like the Bighorn, the Beaverkill or the Madison.

Republican senator, groups fight to save beloved conservation program

Pending expiration of the Land and Water Conservation Fund puts hundreds of projects at risk
Kayakers paddle in Whitewater Bay in Alaska where, in 2013, LWCF funds were used to procure and protect land whose preservation is crucial to the region's economy and its prolific runs of all five species of Pacific salmon (photo: USFS).

What costs taxpayers absolutely nothing, has funded over 41,000 conservation and lands projects at the federal, state and local levels, has protected over 2.3 million acres of forests and—throughout most of its 54 year history—has enjoyed bi-partisan support from lawmakers? It's a question that many might not be able to answer because, despite its positive impacts in nearly every county in the United States, the nation's most important program for the preservation and protection of public lands—the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LCWF)—has historically spent little time in the spotlight.

Wet wading footwear

A look at the options
August wet wading on the Wigwam River in British Columbia (photo: Chad Shmukler).

Remember those old Simms wading sandals? The ones that looked like, with a pair of knee-high stockings and some lederhosen, we’d be all set for Octoberfest?

I wore them because donning waders to chase backcountry trout on hot summer days was just too damn uncomfortable. If I’m going to make gravy, it’s not going to be in my waders, damnit.

More proof that Ryan Zinke is an industry stooge who misled and lied to the American public

It's now clearer than ever that opening Americans' public lands to coal, oil, gas and mineral extraction was the plan all along
From left to right: Rick Perry, Ryan Zinke & Bob Beauprez (photo: Gage Skidmore / cc2.0).

“It really is about multiple use and multiple use is grazing, timber management, recreation, being able to use in some places four-wheel drives.”

“As the chief steward of our public lands, it is my responsibility to ensure that these lands are used for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.”

Those are the words of Ryan Zinke, secretary of the Interior Department, in statements explaining his recommendations to vastly shrink the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante national monuments in Utah.