Sam MacDonald, Agonist


Reason's former Washington editor, Samuel A. MacDonald, has his first book out. The Agony of an American Wilderness (Rowman & Littlefield) examines the continuing struggle over the Allegheny National Forest between environmentalists, industry, and the locals who have lived and worked in the area for generations. Sam's book starts off with the 2002 destruction of the Forest Service lab, a fire allegedly set by Earth Liberation Front adherents that destroyed 70 years of research and did $700,000 worth of damage, and goes on to weigh the sometimes passionate arguments about the forest's future. The Allegheny is not an old-growth forest, by the way; the region was mowed flat long ago. Among the arguments: whether the valuable hardwoods forest that grew back is the "right" forest.

The real strength of Sam's work is that he keeps his focus on the people whose lives will be shaped by policy determinations. Sam, who is from western Pennsylvania, wrote the book there under a grant; I played the (mostly useless) offstage role of "mentor." Amazon reports that as of today, only two copies remain in stock (with more on the way). Better order now.