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The National Parks: An American Legacy

Published : 2015-10-27

Tour Yellowstone or Yosemite, Acadia or Great Smoky Mountains, and you can feel it. Power of place. These magnificent landscapes of the National Park System fill us with awe, whether we're watching Old Faithful erupt, the mists weave among the summits of Great Smoky, or the waves crashing endlessly to shore at Acadia.

That same feeling is repeated for me each time I enter a unit of the park system, whether it's Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, Cape Lookout National Seashore on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, or Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. 

While it'd take a lifetime to visit all units of the National Park System, you can "visit" many of them through the lens of Ian Shive, whose The National Parks: An American Legacy, Celebrating 100 Years of the National Park Service, has arrived just in time for year-end gift giving or simply to grace your coffee table and inspire your next vacation. This is not Mr. Shive's first tour through the national parks. He long has been at work capturing the beauty and grandeur of parks, both for books and magazine articles.

Mr. Shive is the author of the top-selling conservation and photography book, The National Parks: Our American Landscape. The hardcover edition was released in April 2009, while a second, softcover edition, with more images arrived in 2011.  In both editions, the photographer pays homage to America’s greatest national treasures through an ambitious collection of breathtaking imagery encompassing richly colorful giant sweeping vistas to smaller but still remarkable, captured minutiae of Acadia, Denali, Glacier, Grand Canyon, Great Smoky Mountains, White Sands, Yellowstone and Yosemite national parks, to name a few.

His efforts have led to the photographer being honored by the Sierra Club with its Ansel Adams Award for Conservation Photography.

In his latest work, Mr. Shive takes us to the snow-covered forests rimming Crater Lake in Oregon, the roof of Haleakala National Park in Hawaii, the sandy beaches of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Wisconsin, and into the cliff dwellings of Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico. And that's just a quick selection seized while thumbing through the 240-page hardcover book. All told, there are more than 300 images from more than 50 of the 59 "national parks" taken by Mr. Shive that have never been published previously.

Combined, the images come together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that forms a picture of what the National Park System embraces...and which challenges us to not only feel the power of these places, but think of conservation of nature on a larger scale. That is part of the point Clark Bunting, until recently the president and chief executive officer of the National Parks Conservation Association, drives home in the book's introduction:

When I think about large landscape conservation, I think about connectivity -- of the land, yes, but also the air, the water, the wildlife, the migratory patterns and the corridors -- and how all these things know no park boundaries. They connect ito a greater whole that is a tapestry made up not just of the parks, but of natural spaces in a much broader sense.

Seeing, understanding, and preserving those connections is perhaps the greatest conservation challenge of our generation. We've got to manage our resources in a thoughtful way that recognizes and nurtures the interconnectivity of the planet. Fortunately, because of the foresight and hard work of those who came before us, we've inherited the national parks -- one of the best resources we have to visualize that interconnection.

Buy this book, set it out on a coffee- or end table for your family and friends to page through, and think of the wonderful places to visit in the National Park System. Then go into them, and feel the power. 


Here is an alternative review that Ian Shive has called "sold, fair and brilliant":

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