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‘Refuge: America’s Wildest Places’ Is A Testament To American Exceptionalism

The National Wildlife Refuge System is an often overlooked feature of the American wilderness designation, serving as a black sheep to its older siblings.

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The National Wildlife Refuge System is a too often overlooked feature of the American wilderness designations, serving as a sort of black sheep cousin to its older siblings, the National Park System, and the National Forest System.

Award-winning photographer and filmmaker Ian Shive has produced an astonishing artwork exposing the undercover beauty of the nation’s hidden natural wonders that will move readers far beyond their familiarity with the Redwood forests or Half Dome Yosemite.

In the upcoming book, “Refuge: America’s Wildest Places,” Shive gives readers a glimpse of the nation’s largest network of public lands and waterways in the world with a visual anthology that promises to leave viewers gasping at every page.

The nation’s refuge system will present those who pick up the book with the “most amazing places they’ve ‘never seen,’” to paraphrase a quip from Refuge Manager Steve Delehanty in one of the volume’s essays.

While the book is not entirely apolitical, the politics are tame the few times they are explicit, offering passive criticism to the typical targets of mainstream environmentalist frustration. Overall, however, this is not a political book. Rather, it is a spiritually-rich appreciation for the nation’s natural treasures that serves as a testament to its exceptionalism by preserving them. 

“If the national parks are our best idea, then the National Wildlife Refuge System is our crowning achievement,” Shive writes. 

In showcasing the breathtaking landscapes from the Alaskan Aleutian Islands to the fall foliage of New England wildlife refuges, Shive harnesses decades of experience to best capture what is impossible to catch by the digital lens.

By the grace of modern technology complete with the proficiency of a skilled photographer operating at the highest levels of the profession, Shive has successfully been able to bring at least a sliver of the tranquility and inspiration offered in the nation’s wildest places to the confined spaces of pandemic-ridden homes on lockdown. The moving tribute in a 200-page book makes clear that a commitment to preservation must be neither a leftist nor conservative one, but an American one, as it always has been. 

Throughout its collection of essays woven into the picturesque landscapes, Shive conveys the importance of preserving these overlooked features of American greatness.