Under the Cottonwood Tree


This past Sunday we held our 3rd Annual Summer Book Club discussion at Buffalo Peaks Ranch. We all gathered by the Main House’s cottonwood tree to discuss Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac, widely considered one of the most influential conservation books of the 20th Century.

Leopold describes the need for a land ethic, seeing the natural world “as a community to which we belong.” This classic book is also a beautifully written story of one man coming to know the land on which he lives. As the Land Library continues to learn more and more about our immediate surroundings (Buffalo Peaks Ranch) it seemed like a perfect book club selection for this summer.

Special thanks goes to Candice Hall for kindly sharing these beautiful images from our 2017 Summer Book Club gathering!


Under the cottonwood tree, an inviting array of Leopold books, sitting atop one of the Leopold Benches Land Library volunteers built a couple of summers ago.


After his long career in the National Park Service, and a lifetime of reading and being out on the land, Tom Wylie always adds an interesting perspective….


along with offering up illuminating passages, copied into one of Tom’s notebooks.


True to Aldo Leopold’s amazingly observant writing, Candice Hall spent time roaming across the ranch on Sunday. Taking photos out by the Lambing Barn….


amidst the high sage by the Bunkhouse, and looking up valley too:


What a perfect setting to experience the always evolving thoughts of Aldo Leopold, and to contemplate the need for a land ethic for our own time.

“All ethics so far evolved rest upon a single premise: that the individual is a member of a community of interdependent parts. The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, water, plants and animals, or collectively the land.”  Aldo Leopold, from A Sand County Almanac

Getting to Know the Headwaters

panarama buff peaks
At first glance, South Park appears to be a never-ending expanse of shortgrass prairie. But the waters of this high mountain grassland are rich and varied.

We are thrilled to have Denise Culver back this summer to share so much of what she has learned about wetland plants, after a lifetime spent in the field. We will amble along the banks of South Park’s streams (including the South Platte River), and explore the ranch’s fen, a very special peatland environment with many globally rare plants. Please join us!


Saturday, August 5th, 10am to 4pm,  $50 class fee


Fen plants tend to be tiny. Here’s Denise, last year, leaning in to identify a grass.

Denise Culver is a botanist & ecologist with the Colorado Natural Heritage Program. She has been happily mucking across Colorado’s wetlands for over 20 years. Denise is also the co-author of the wonderfully comprehensive Field Guide to Colorado’s Wetland Plants.


Buffalo Peaks Ranch


The Oceans & the Stars


“Human lives are intimately entwined with plankton. Every breath we take is a gift of oxygen from the plankton. In fact photosynthetic bacteria and protists produce as much oxygen as all the forests and terrestrial plants combined. And for the last three billion years, phytoplankton have absorbed huge amounts of carbon dioxide. Plankton regulate the productivity and acidity of the ocean through the carbon cycle, and exert a major influence on climate.” — from Plankton: Wonders of the Drifting World

Fundamental to life on Earth, plankton are also eerily beautiful, and represent a virtually unknown cosmos in our midst. Christian Sardet’s Plankton: Wonders of the Drifting World is the most visually exciting book we have come across in a very long time. Go slowly, page by page, and a pure sense of wonder will fill you to the brim. Much like gazing at the stars — or viewing the astounding images from the Hubble Space Telescope. In the interest of both science and poetry, Plankton needs to be on the same Land Library shelf with the recent The Hubble Cosmos: 25 Years of New Vistas in Space!



Plankton Mandala: This image from Christian Sardet’s book depicts more than 200 different kinds of plankton. In the upper part of the mandala are the largest creatures of zooplankton: jellyfish, siphonophores, ctenophores, salps. In the center are a mix of chaetognaths, annelids, mollusks, and crustaceans. Also included are larvae and juveniles. The lower part of the image shows microscopic organisms (measuring less than 1mm), mostly single-cell protists: radiolarians, foraminifera, diatoms, and dinoflagellates.


Just one of thousands of images from the Hubble Space Telescope: Supernova Remnant: SNR 0519.


Planktonic Juveniles: including the red-blotched squid, Loligo vulgaris.


From the chapter, Worms and Tadpoles: Arrows, Tubes and Nets.

John Steinbeck had this to say about tide pools. He could have been talking about the wide open ocean as well:

It is advisable to look from the tide pool to the stars and then back to the tide pool again.

For more on the Plankton Chronicles Project visit their photo-filled website, or view many short film clips on Christian Sardet’s YouTube channel!

Mutual Bonds of Respect


Here’s another in a series of posts on the global reach of the Land Library’s 35,000+ volumes devoted to people and the land:

“Palani Mohan first made contact in 2013, sending me a selection of photographs from his numerous trips to the Altai Mountains in the far western reaches of Mongolia. It is a vast and unforgiving landscape, where temperatures routinely drop to minus forty degrees celsius in winter, and where the skies are filled with forbidding lenticular cloud formations. During the long winters the burkitshi (eagle-hunters) leave their homes with horse and eagle, and head into the mountains to hunt for several days at a time. Palani’s photographs struck me as forcefully as conveying not only the hard beauty of this wild and seemingly empty terrain, but also, more significantly, the intense relationship that the hunter forges with his eagle. It is this bond of mutual respect and trust that defines the life of the burkitshi and gives it profound meaning.” — Hugh Merrell, from the foreword.

With over eighty doutone images, Hunting with Eagles: In the Realm of the Mongolian Kazakhs is one of the most visually stunning books the Land Library has seen in a very long time. As award-winning photographer Palani Mohan explains in his introduction, this is a culture under threat. There are no more than fifty hunters left, and that alone motivated Mohan to record this unique relationship between man and bird.


The golden eagle is a perfect predator, with an awe-inspiring wingspan, a beak built to rend flesh, and talons that can kill prey instantly by piercing the heart. A fox is easy prey, and when hunting in pairs, eagles are capable of bringing down a wolf — Palani Mohan

like baby

“Madina, a 63-year old Kazakh wearing a fox-skin coat, cradles his six-year old eagle in his arms. ‘They love to be carried in such a way. It makes them feel loved and relaxes them, just like a baby‘, he told me.”


“Even though the eagles are kept in the hunters’ homes, they remain wild birds with a finely honed killer instinct.”


“I sat in a rocky crevice and found myself listening to the wind roaring around the contours of the mountains and whipping the grass, ever-changing in tone and volume, and becoming deafening at times. As the hours wore on, I thought about everything but also nothing, and felt utterly at peace. With only nature’s symphony and my silent guide for company, I experienced one of the most memorable moments of my time in Mongolia.”

b&w author

Palani Mohan’s work has appeared in the pages of National Geographic, and he is also the author of Vanishing Giants: Elephants of Asia. For much more, please visit Palani Mohan’s website!

And here’s two related books from the Land Library’s collection:




Both by naturalist Stephen Bodio: An Eternity of Eagles, a natural and cultural history of eagles across the globe, and Bodio’s own field report from the land of the Kazakhs: Eagle Dreams: Searching for Legends in Wild Mongolia.


Many years ago, Colorado ecologist David Cooper compared the high mountain grasslands of South Park to the steppes of Mongolia. With Buffalo Peaks Ranch (the Land Library’s headwaters site) located in the middle of South Park, no wonder we keep adding Mongolian books to our collection. They are some of our favorite books!

To learn much more about the Rocky Mountain Land Library here’s a short video set at Buffalo Peaks Ranch:




Collateral Damage Along Ancestral Routes


“This is a book about the US-Mexico border wall and immigration policy, but more importantly it is about the land, wildlife, and people that have found themselves at the front lines of a turning point in North American history…” — from Continental Divide: Wildlife, People, and the Border Wall

We first wrote about this book back in 2012. It’s still the only book we know of that tackles the ecological implications of the single most dramatic part of the United States’ immigration policy — the ongoing construction of a wall along our border with Mexico. Krista Schlyer’s Continental Divide: Wildlife, People, and the Border Wall makes it clear what’s at stake in the borderlands. This region contains a number of rare ecosystems, some of the last undeveloped prairies on the continent, along with habitat and migration corridors for some of North America’s most imperiled species.

So what happens when you build a wall?

Mule deer and the border wall, Arizona

“A barrier like a mountain can create a desert. But what is the impact of the sudden arrival of a great wall within a desert that is experiencing rapid warming and prolonged draught conditions?” — Krista Schlyer

For more on this one-of-a-kind book, here’s a short film clip:

With Continental Divide, Krista Schlyer, wielding pen and camera with equal grace, takes her place as one of the staunchest advocates of the battered, contested, and sublimely beautiful territory we know as the US-Mexico borderlands.” — William deBuys

Green jays in the Audubon Sabal Palm Preserve, Brownsville, Texas.

“The wall now covers only about one-third the length of the border, undercutting the ecological integrity of the borderlands, but not fully severing it. What becomes of the natural communities of the borderlands depends on what happens next.” —Krista Schlyer

We’ll be writing much more about the global reach of the Land Library’s books in the days ahead. To learn much more about the Rocky Mountain Land Library and our wide-ranging collection, be sure to visit our current Kickstarter page!


The Rocky Mountain Land Library’s long-awaited Kickstarter Campaign is LIVE! Help bring books, people & programs to Colorado’s Buffalo Peaks Ranch. With your support we will transform a historic high mountain ranch into a residential library devoted to land, community, and the many positive ways we can all move forward together.

But first, CLICK HERE and you’ll find out much more. Learn how you can be an important part of this land-inspired, book-loving grassroots project!



To See the World Anew

“Why do so many of us have bookshelves bending under the weight of yellow-spined copies of the magazine? It’s simple: we cannot bring ourselves to throw away such beautiful things. We know what has gone into their creation.” — Nigel Holmes, National Geographic Infographics.


Here’s the latest addition to the Rocky Mountain Land Library’s always growing collection:  National Geographic Infographics, just published by Taschen.  This beautifully done oversize volume captures the top charts, diagrams, and maps from the National Geographic‘s past 128 years.


What a timeless resource for artists, scientists, naturalists, and lifelong learners of all ages!

8bb9ddebc3fffce8f05fe3d2e32313e2This hefty tome is divided into seven sections: History, The Planet, Being Human, Animal Worlds, World of Plants, Science & Technology, and Space.

And there are many eye-opening surprises along the way:


The recent work of National Geographic artists are well represented, but some of our favorite images come from the oldest, dustiest of the yellow-spined treasures:


From natural history to the daring “futuristic” Mercury space capsule design:


National Geographic has long helped us all see the world anew:


Stay tuned for more Land Library new arrivals in 2017!

Field Trip to a Biologic Hot Spot


At first glance, South Park appears to be a never ending expanse of shortgrass prairie. However, within this high mountain grassland, peatlands occur, or more specifically fens. South Park’s fens are home to many globally rare plant species, including several that can only be found in the great northern boreal belt.

JOIN US on Saturday August 6th as we explore one of South Park’s most unique landscapes. Our first-ever Fen Field Class will be led by Denise Culver, a botanist/ecologist with the Colorado Natural Heritage Program. Denise has been mucking around Colorado’s wetlands for over 20 years, She is also the co-author of the Field Guide to Colorado’s Wetlands: Identification, Ecology and Conservation (pictured above).


You’ll definitely get your feet wet, but you’ll also learn so much more about why South Park is such a truly special place! For more on the upcoming Fen Field Class, and how to register, click here!


Our First Star Night at the Ranch!

The Milky Way, above the Main House at Buffalo Peaks Ranch. (photo taken by 2015 HistoriCorps volunteer Larry Glass)

Taking full advantage of South Park’s dark skies, on July 9th we will be hosting the first of many Star Nights at Buffalo Peaks Ranch. Join astronomy author Jeff Kanipe for a telescopic tour of the summer sky, including the Moon, Jupiter, Saturn, star clusters, and the billowy star clouds of the Milky Way.

Join us for this fun and informative night under the stars (weather permitting of course). Lodgings are available at several Fairplay motels just 15 minutes away, or come early and pitch your tent at the ranch! Snacks and hot drinks will be provided during star gazing, along with coffee and dutch oven biscuits in the morning.

For more on the Star Night fee, and how to register, click here!


Jeff Kanipe is the author of numerous books on astronomy, including A Skywatcher’s Year, Chasing Hubble’s Shadows, The Cosmic Connection, along with his recent effort, a multivolume guide to celestial objects, Annals of the Deep Sky.

We have many more Summer Ranch Programs coming up; everything from the geology of South Park, to nature drawing, and haiku poetry. For more on what’s ahead, here’s our Summer 2016 schedule!

Worlds above and worlds below. With special thanks to Larry Glass for his terrific nightime shots at Buffalo Peaks Ranch!

Cultivator of Words, Planter of Trees


It’s always a thrill to add one more volume of W.S. Merwin’s poetry to the Land Library’s shelves. Our latest addition, What is a Garden? is a wonderful collaboration between Merwin’s words, and the vivid tropical images from photographer Larry Cameron.

Poet and environmentalist W.S. Merwin moved to Hawaii in 1976 and has spent the last forty years planting nineteen acres with more than 800 species of palm, creating a lush garden on a ruined former pineapple plantation.

PBS correspondent (and fellow poet) Jeffrey Brown visited W.S. Merwin at his Hawaii home, and captured the inspirational work of one of America’s greatest poets (& conservationists!):



For more on W.S. Merwin work in Hawaii, be sure to visit The Merwin Conservancy’s excellent website. Their mission is to preserve the living legacy of W.S. Merwin, his home and palm forest, for future retreat and study for botanists and writers, and for the benefit of environmental advocacy and community education.

I hope to be able to go on planting palms on this land for a long time, and I regard what has been done here so far as just a beginning….I hope that a future head gardener will have something of the same desire that I have had: to try to grow as many species as possible of the world’s palms….That is the abiding part of our hope that a Conservancy will want and will be able to save this bit of the Peahi streambed — what we have made here for those who come after us.” — W.S.Merwin



W.S. Merwin is a two-time recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry, winner of a National Book Award, and twice served as the United States Poet Laureate. Recently he was honored as the 2015 Champion of the Land by the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust.

The Poetry Foundation has much more on W.S. Merwin on their always informative website!

Deep Insight into a Complex World

Water will always be a central issue reflected in the Land Library’s growing collection of books. Here’s just a few new acquisitions!


Alok Jha’s The Water Book: The Extraordinary Story of Our Most Ordinary Substance — from one of Britain’s leading science journalists, this is a fascinating story of one of the world’s strangest molecules. Also pictured above, Sustainable Water: Challenges and Solutions from California, edited by Allison Lassiter, and written by leading policy makers, economists, ecologists, engineers and planners, all offering lessons on increasing resilience in a water-limited world.



Every Last Drop: Bringing Clean Water Home by Michelle Mulder, part of one of our favorite kid’s environmental science series, Orca Footprints. This book is packed with information and inspiration from across the globe. Nancy Bo Flood’s Water Runs Through This Book combines science and poetry in a convincing call to action, that is also high on hope!


stephen grace

For more on water’s central role in the unfolding history of Colorado, there’s no better book that Stephen Grace’s The Great Divide (the companion book to a wonderful film). From archaeological evidence of ancient Native American reservoirs, to current day water shortages, this book offers deep insight into the complex world of water in the West.

For more good water-related books, and to learn about the Land Library’s plans for a special riverside Watershed Library at Buffalo Peaks Ranch, you might enjoy one of our earlier posts:

Water in the West & Beyond