What can you do? Read 'The Will of the Land'

In the wake of last night's posting about the untimely death of Meadow, the young Banff wolf killed on the railway tracks on March 7, 2011, I have received a deluge of personal emails, blog comments, and Facebook fan page comments asking, simply, "What can we do?" to put some pressure on Parks Canada and the Canadian Pacific Railway to address the situation in a meaningful manner.

So what can we do?  In his gorgeous new book, The Will of the Land, fellow Canmore wildlife and nature photographer Peter A. Dettling tackles this issue head-on.  Peter's book is a revelation to the idea that Banff National Park is supposed to protect its wild inhabitants, not cater to the whims of corporate greed.

The Will of the Land is one of the most important books to come out regarding conservation in Canada in years.  That it focuses on my (and Peter's) mountain backyard and features some of the most breath-taking wildlife photography you will ever see is an added bonus to the must-read text for anyone that cares about the state of Canada's national parks, and in particular, Banff National Park.

The Will of the Land by Peter Dettling, Rocky Mountain Books, October 2010

In the book, Peter chronicles many of the relationships he developed from years in the field in Banff working on this project.  While many of you may have seen Peter's name from time to time in national publications and magazines, much of the reason his work has not been seen as much as other equally-talented wildlife photographers is because of the incredible amount of time he spent ignoring the call of his desk and office to search for and photograph many of the subjects of this book, like the Bows (the Bow Valley wolf family), Jolie (a Banff grizzly), and others.

Jolie and a mate © Peter Dettling

I have mentioned in previous articles and posts about the time I spent photographing the Bows in 2007 -- a total of 47 days in the field in order to get 4 good photo days/opportunities with the wolves.  Yet that considerable effort pales in comparison to the amount of time Peter spent in the field in Banff in 2007: over 250 days.

The dedication Peter showed on this project clearly shines through in The Will of the Land. The first 100 pages entrance the reader, leading one along a journey with Peter to visit the personal connections he has made with the animals he's photographed and spent so much time with.  The stories are fascinating, the photographs equally as captivating. But then the book takes a decided and purposeful twist, bringing to the forefront the hard questions that need to be asked and exposing the worst of the ecological problems that Banff National Park faces.

Trains race through Banff National Park, creating a death zone for wildlife © Peter Dettling

The book takes a rare look into the "realities of nature's growing struggle against developing tourism, ill-conceived transportation routes and questionable wildlife management practices."  And importantly, in doing so, Peter does not sugarcoat the truth with a collection of pretty pictures surrounding the tragic and often harsh words.  Rather, he exposes the worst of the park for all to see in graphic, vivid photos of his closest wild friends, the wolves of the Bow Valley family, after their deaths.

The Bows no longer exist in Banff National Park.  Delinda, Nanuk, Chinook, Ranger, Lakota, Fluffy, White Fang, Silvertip, and Sundance no longer walk the Bow Valley.  The same goes for Field, Blondie, #16, #66, and so many more grizzly bears, all that have died at the hands of man.

© Peter Dettling

Peter's book comes at a time when it is needed most.  Many Canadians, like myself, are extremely disgruntled with how our Parks are being managed and protected.  I am fortunate enough to have a voice with Parks Canada occasionally, to be on committees and boards, or to provide input to research projects.  However, I've become disillusioned with this as well, not sure that it's helping at all.  So in the face of this comes The Will of the Land, Peter's own impassioned cry for help with something even better: a vision for the future of Canada's most famous national park and a way that you can help make that vision a reality.

If this has touched a nerve with you at all, then I urge you to pick up Peter's book from a local bookstore (Cafe Books in Canmore, the Viewpoint in Banff, or any Chapters, Coles, or Indigo location across Canada) or order it directly online from Canada or the United States (Amazon).  It is a book that could change the way we view our national parks forever, and I'm proud of my friend and colleague for having the faith and perseverance to bring this significant project to fruition.

For more about Peter Dettling's photography and projects, please visit his website at www.terramagica.ca.  For more about the book, please visit http://www.terramagica.ca/Porta_website/projects.html.

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