Author presentation at Friends of the Park City Library luncheon will give panoramic view or open lands and wildlife
What: Friends of the Park City Library Author Luncheon with Leslie MIller
When: 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 16
Where: Deer Valley’s Silver Lake Lodge, 7600 Royal St Suite 112
Cost: $42 in advance; $50 at the door
Leslie Miller, one of the editors of “Reimagining a Place for the Wild,” will talk about human interactions with wildlife and open space during the annual Friends of the Park City Library author luncheon on Oct. 16.
And she won’t be alone.
The other speakers will include Wendy Fisher, executive director of Utah Open Lands, Kerry C. Gee, vice president of United Park City Mines, and Erin Holcomb, former associate director of the University of Utah’s Taft-Nicholson Center for Environmental Humanities Education in Lakeview, Montana, all of whom had submitted essays for the book, according to Miller.
“Our presentations will focus on their encounters in the wild, of which many took place in the greater Yellowstone and Centennial Valley area,” she said. “I wanted to specifically use the power of story, rather than the language of science and politics, to inspire the will to act for human and natural-world prosperity.”
Miller thinks the stories found in “Reimagining A Place for the Wild” will elevate “the significance and the wonder” of humans’ relationship with the animals.
“They are literally sharing our their natural habitat and open space with us,” she said.
The book, which features essays from 17 writers, is the result of the Reimagining Western Landscapes Symposium, a conference that was held in Lakeview, in Centennial Valley, the home of the Taft-Nicholson Center in the summer of 2014.
It was the perfect location to host the symposium, Miller said.
“When I was a board member of the University of Utah’s College of Humanities, I was introduced to this exquisite place, which is a critical habitat for Yellowstone National Park wildlife that come to the area during the winter to survive,” Miller said. “Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, which is one of the reserves that saved the trumpeter swan, is right in the center of this valley. And it was so powerful to see that open valley that was a working Western landscape.”
Miller invited nature lovers, former park rangers, humanity professors and journalists from across the greater Yellowstone and Rocky Mountain Region to speak at the symposium..
“The other side of that coin was that they needed to provide essays about their experiences,” Miller said.
Miller initially thought she would use these essays and file a white paper report, which would address the complexity of the human, wildlife and open-land issue, but the essays, she said, were too good to file away.
She decided to recruit Louise Excell, emeritus professor of English and humanities at Dixie State University, and renowned Utah journalist Christopher Smart to edit and compile the essays for publication with the University of Utah Press.
The book was published in 2018, and Park City-based artist Wiliam J. “Kranny” Kranstover, who will also set up an exhibit of his works at the author luncheon, provided its cover art.
“When I was thinking of a cover for the book, Kranny’s name kept popping into my head,” Miller said. “So I went to his studio and asked if he had any beautiful paintings of buffalo, the iconic image of the West. And he pulled out the painting, and I knew it was the one.”
Miller, who directs the Reimagine Western Landscapes Initiative, a grassroots group of scholars and activists who believe the humanities can play a greater role in environmental conservation, said she has been a “rabid open-space advocate” for years.
She spearheaded the Park City Coalition, an open-space group who fought to preserve the Carl Winter’s School Playing Field, which is now the Park City Library field, in the 1990s.
“We used that field to throw Frisbees to our dogs, and we used it when we read good books during the spring,” she said. “We valued that little three acres, so when the city wanted to develop it into a commercial hotel, I happily I discovered many people in Park City felt the way I did. So we fought for it, and we did it.”
Miller’s love for the natural world began while she was a child visiting her family cabin in the northern woods of Wisconsin.
“When I moved to Park City in 1973, I spent the first winter in Summit Park, and it reminded me of the cabin,” she said. “I lived in a little mining house up on Daly Avenue, and the back window of my loft bedroom was right up against the mountainside. When I opened the window at night, I could smell those pines and hear Poison Creek coming down Daly Canyon.”
Miller, a former Park City Councilor, doesn’t want people to lose those types of connections with nature.
“But it’s happening, because we’re losing wildlife,” she said. “We’re losing habitat, and the pace of this is alarming, and this is why I think the book is important.”
MIller hopes the essays in the book will resonate with people.
“I hope the stories will help them think and act with empathy and integrity when we approve a new subdivision or when we ride ATVs in their habitats,” she said. “This is their home, and I think it’s so important to keep those connections.”
Miller is honored to give a presentation at the author luncheon, which is an event the Friends of the Park City Library hosts to show thanks for the community’s support.
“I’ve been attending the author luncheons for years, and when we started putting the book together, I thought it would be awesome if we could do a presentation,” she said. “Well, here I am, and it makes me cry.”
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