Professor Char Miller’s New Book Celebrates America’s National Forests

From the book

“Mount Wilson may not be the tallest peak in the San Gabriel Mountains, the craggy range that serves as the spine of the Angeles National Forest, frames the northern backdrop to metropolitan Los Angeles, and annually lures millions of visitors to its boulder-strewn creeks, rugged trails, and windswept peaks. But for early 20th-century humorist Mina Deane Halsey, Mount Wilson was plenty high enough. Reaching its 5,700-foot summit, she laughed, was “the nearest station to Heaven yours truly ever expects to get.”

Pomona College Environmental Analysis Professor Char Miller’s new book, America’s Great National Forests, Wildernesses & Grasslands, is the perfect coffee table book for both the outdoor enthusiast and the armchair explorer.

Through Miller’s essays and photographer Tim Palmer’s breathtaking portraits, the book pays homage to the 193 million acres of mountains, prairies, rivers and canyons from California to New Hampshire, Puerto Rico to Alaska, a system of public lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service. This includes the Angeles National Forest, home to Mt. Baldy and the rest of the San Gabriel Mountains that form the spectacular backdrop to the Pomona College campus.

“What we’re trying to do through Palmer’s photos and my words is convey at once the extraordinary beauty of these forests, wildernesses and grasslands, but also give them a human dimension,” says Miller. “The book is framed around the ways in which human beings and nature have interacted in different ways across time.”

This year marks the 125th anniversary of the first national forests that between 1891 and 1907 were called ‘forest reserves.’  

Miller’s message is a timely reminder following the recent armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge that took place in Oregon in January 2016, reviving environmentalists’ concern over the exploitation of these public lands. The occupation is reminiscent of the Sagebrush Rebellions of past and modern times that have livestock, mining, and other economic interests at heart over the environmental laws protecting these lands.

“This book has a point of view about the place of these forests in our lives. We need to be engaged for their protection,” says Miller. “It explains why an earlier generation of the late 19th century thought it was essential for the continuation of this nation that these federal lands become national forests. We wanted to honor that commitment and our continued enjoyment of their legacy.”

“Many of our students and alumni have spent a lot of time climbing Mt. Baldy, going on a retreat to the Halona cabin, threading their way through chaparral ecosystems, and biking along the San Gabriel and Santa Ana rivers. These are all in the Angeles or San Bernardino national forests. Anyone who has spent time on Biology, Environmental Analysis, or Geology field trips, for example, has put foot to ground on a national forest.”

Miller explains further that most Western communities depend on the national forests, wildernesses and grasslands for hunting, fishing, skiing, hiking, and other utilitarian and recreational use where permitted. The book is meant as a reminder to readers for whom water comes out of a faucet that it actually comes from a stream—and in many parts of the country those streams find their sources in national forest watershed.

“This book is a way to identify this deep and abiding connection we have to these incredible landscapes.”

America’s Great National Forests, Wildernesses & Grasslands is available March 15, 2016. It is published by Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., in association with the U.S. Forest Service and The Pinchot Institute for Conservation.