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Modern Forager

Our Living Ancestors

Our Living Ancestors

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by John Bates

Our Take

A household favorite, this book is all about Wisconsin's old growth forests; the history and ecology. The book is well researched, fascinating and sad. Our copy is dog-eared, as we follow some of its hiking instructions into nearby groves of hemlock and pine. A wonderful tool for Wisconsin mushroom foragers looking to up their game and learn more about our beautiful forests.

ISBN 978-0- 9656763-9- 7 (softcover)

Over 200 photos, maps, and graphics
Softcover, 6 x 9, 336 pages

Manitowish River Press

Old-growth forests touch the soul of many people. Some hear the echoes of Native Americans or the first settlers. Some feel the great age of the trees and revere them, while others feel they are in the presence of an overwhelmingly rare beauty. Still others understand the profound scientific value of old-growth forests as reference systems for what forests can be.

Despite the remarkable emotional appeal and scientific value of old-growth forests, they are rare in Wisconsin. Only 0.3% ofWisconsin’s old-growth forests remain, but these scattered, small parcels still retain their ability to amaze hikers with their size, beauty, and elegance.

Where are they? This book directs visitors to the 50 best old-growth sites left in Wisconsin. Each site has clear directions, a listing of ownership, size, and age, and a description of its ecological features, with perhaps a story of why it was saved. A map and photo(s) illustrates each site. An additional shorter chapter includes the “50 Best-of- the-Rest.”

The book is for a general audience, but its wealth of rigorously-researched and profusely-illustrated data may also serve as a general reference for professional ecologists and conservationists.

Experience Wisconsin’s history told though the annals of forests. Our Living Ancestors artfully captures the essence of woodlands and contains the most thorough documentation of old-growth remnants left in Wisconsin. A must read for the natural history enthusiast and professional land manager alike.
- Matt Dallman, Director of Conservation, The Nature Conservancy, Wisconsin

Ancient forests are a topic of perpetual fascination for many of us, but amateurs and professionals alike frequently misunderstand these most senior of our woodlands. Enter naturalist John Bates. His extraordinarily detailed descriptions of Wisconsin’s old-growth forests lift the veil of mystery and provide us with glimpses of what the Badger State’s extensive pre-settlement forests were like. The book is a veritable goldmine of information on the sad destruction of Wisconsin’s original woodlands. Attitudes toward old growth, then and now, are explored along with an authoritative account of the biological and genetic diversity at risk when nature’s true woodlands are compromised. These accounts are followed by an extensive inventory of today’s old-growth remnants. There is simply no better book written on these topics for a wide audience than Our Living Ancestor – The History and Ecology of Old-Growth Forests in Wisconsin (and Where to Find Them). No serious amateur or professional can be without it.
- Robert T. Leverett, Cofounder, The Native Tree Society; Coauthor, The Sierra Club Guide to Ancient Forests of the Northeast

This book is an ideal resource for anyone who wants to understand Wisconsin’s forests. It is extremely well researched, clearly presented, and masterfully written. Bates has turned what could be a dry subject into a lively, living, symphony of words. There is something for everyone here, whether you are an office-bound historian or a hiker who wants to experience the last remnants of wild ancient forests. John Bates has done us all a great favor by putting this important information together in one perfect package.
- Joan Maloof, ​Founder and Director of the Old-Growth Forest Network, and author of Among the Ancients and Nature’s Temples.

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