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Nature essay made possible by Forest Service program, is Orion Magazine selection

PORTLAND, Ore. March 31, 2010. An award-winning nature essay, written during a USDA Forest Service writers' residence, has won the John Burroughs Award for nature writing. The essay, "Mind in the Forest," written by Scott Russell Sanders, a professor emeritus at Indiana University, stresses the author's connection with nature, especially his affinity for old trees, and contemplates the larger issue of how humans engage with the natural world.

Russell recently received the John Burroughs Award for the Outstanding Published Nature Essay. Winning essays are chosen for their content and exceptional literary value. The award has been given annually since 1993.

Sanders wrote the piece while enrolled in the Long-Term Ecological Reflections Program, which brings creative writers, philosophers, and other scholars to the H. J. Andrews Experimental Forest in Oregon.

Fred Swanson, a senior scientist with the Forest Service's Pacific Northwest Research Station and a science leader at the experimental forest, helped establish the writers' project.

"Our intent is to bring the tools of the humanities to the study of forests and watersheds where we have so long used the tools of science," Swanson says. "We are so pleased with this well-deserved recognition of Scott's wonderful essay. Scott and other visiting writers have revealed qualities of the forest that have been invisible to the hundreds of scientists working there for more than 60 years."

In addition to the Forest Service, the project receives support from the Spring Creek Project for Ideas, Nature, the Written Word, Oregon State University, and the National Science Foundation. It has hosted 25 writers to date, including Sanders.

Sanders said his time spent in the Andrews Experimental Forest, among the great trees and devoted researchers, was profoundly moving. "I'm grateful for the opportunity to explore such a powerful landscape," he said after receiving the award, "and I'm grateful to Orion Magazine for publishing the essay about what I discovered there. Earth is not divided among disciplines or departments; it is whole. We will come closer to imagining that wholeness if writers, scientists, foresters, philosophers, policy makers, and others concerned about the health of the land come together for shared experiences and conversation." The award was presented during ceremonies at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.


Contact: Sherri Richardson Dodge
USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station

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