David G. Havlick is a professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs.
He is the author of “No Place Distant: Roads and Motorized Recreation on America’s Public Lands” and co-editor of “Restoring Layered Landscapes: History, Ecology, and Culture.”
The following is an interview with Havlick.
Each week, The Colorado Sun and Colorado Humanities & Center For The Book feature an excerpt from a Colorado book and an interview with the author. Explore the SunLit archives at coloradosun.com/sunlit
What inspired you to write this book?
I grew up just a short drive’s distance from two of the United States’ most dangerously contaminated sites: the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant, and the Rocky Mountain Arsenal chemical weapons facility. Both of these places are now managed as national wildlife refuges, and I was curious to understand how these changes could occur. How do we explain these dramatic land use changes? Was it driven by ecological processes, political calculations, economics, grassroots efforts, or the interests of the U.S. Department of Defense and Department of Energy?
Who are your favorite authors and/or characters?
Don Quixote is one of my all-time favorite characters. Authors I admire include Mary Oliver, Barry Lopez, Peter Matthiessen, Adrienne Rich, Margaret Atwood, Kim Stanley Robinson, Geoffrey Chaucer, Edward Abbey. I have a real soft spot for dystopic novels and cli-fi.
Why did you choose this excerpt to feature in SunLit?
I wanted to use an excerpt that represented some of the key arguments or ideas of the book, but also with a local or regional emphasis.
What was the most fun or rewarding part of working on this book?
Doing the field work was surely the most interesting and rewarding, though also often the most challenging. Each place I visited had its own unique mix of contamination or military residues, and ecological and social features. These sites forced me to rethink some of the assumptions I was inclined to make about military-to-wildlife transitions, and also brought me into conversation with people with diverse perspectives who are involved in these changing land uses. Some of my research was also in fascinating and rewarding (and sometimes difficult) places: I bicycled for ten chilly, wet days solo along the Iron Curtain Trail in Central Europe, and also spent about six weeks in Japan visiting militarized sites that in many cases were hard even to recognize.
What was the most difficult section to write in this book? Why?
The introduction was probably the hardest part, as I was trying to balance different goals of trying to introduce some of the key concepts in the book, offer a bit of a road map for the structure of the book, and also engage what I hoped would be a fairly diverse audience.
What was one interesting fact you learned while researching this book?
The U.S. Department of Defense, as an institution, is both the most reckless polluter of our nation’s environment and, paradoxically, often the strictest manager of its biological diversity.
What project are you working on next?
I’m working on a couple new research projects: one focuses on the role of federal lands as therapeutic landscapes, especially for military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress; the other examines conceptions of wild and native trout and the shifting geographies of these fish over time.
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