Tag Archives: conservation

ReadUP for Earth Day Weekend!

Earth Day is this weekend, and today we’re highlighting our best new reads to celebrate conservation, biodiversity, and sustainable living.


Kentucky Heirloom Seeds: Growing, Eating, Saving

Saving seeds to plant for next year’s crop has been key to survival around the globe for millennia. However, the twentieth century witnessed a grand takeover of seed producers by multinational companies aiming to select varieties ideal for mechanical harvest, long-distance transportation, and long shelf life. With the rise of the Slow Food and farm-to-table movements in recent years, the farmers and home gardeners who have been quietly persisting in the age-old habit of conserving heirloom plants are finally receiving credit for their vital role in preserving both good taste and the world’s rich food heritage.

Kentucky Heirloom Seeds is an evocative exploration of the seed saver’s art and the practice of sustainable agriculture. Bill Best and Dobree Adams begin by tracing the roots of the tradition in the state to a 700-year-old Native American farming village in north central Kentucky. Best shares tips for planting and growing beans and describes his family’s favorite varieties for the table. Featuring interviews with many people who have worked to preserve heirloom varieties, this book vividly documents the social relevance of the rituals of sowing, cultivating, eating, saving, and sharing.

Purchase Here.

Living Sustainably.final.indd

Living Sustainably: What Intentional Communities Can Teach Us about Democracy, Simplicity, and Nonviolence

In light of concerns about food and human health, fraying social ties, economic uncertainty, and rampant consumerism, some people are foregoing a hurried, distracted existence and embracing a mindful way of living. Over the course of four years, A. Whitney Sanford visited ecovillages, cohousing communities, and Catholic worker houses and farms where individuals are striving to “be the change they wish to see in the world.” In this book, she reveals the solutions that these communities have devised for sustainable living while highlighting the specific choices and adaptations that they have made to accommodate local context and geography. She examines their methods of reviving and adapting traditional agrarian skills, testing alternate building materials for their homes, and developing local governments that balance group needs and individual autonomy.

Living Sustainably is a teachable testament to the idea that new cultures based on justice and sustainability are attainable in many ways and in countless homes and communities. Sanford’s engaging and insightful work demonstrates that citizens can make a conscious effort to subsist in a more balanced, harmonious world.

Purchase Here.


Water in Kentucky: Natural History, Communities, and Conservation

Home to sprawling Appalachian forests, rolling prairies, and the longest cave system in the world, Kentucky is among the most ecologically diverse states in the nation. Lakes, rivers, and springs have shaped and nourished life in the Commonwealth for centuries, and water has played a pivotal role in determining Kentucky’s physical, cultural, and economic landscapes. The management and preservation of this precious natural resource remain a priority for the state’s government and citizens.

In this generously illustrated book, experts from a variety of fields explain how water has defined regions across the Commonwealth. Together, they illuminate the ways in which this resource has affected the lives of Kentuckians since the state’s settlement, exploring the complex relationship among humans, landscapes, and waterways. They examine topics such as water quality, erosion and sediment control, and emerging water management approaches. Through detailed analysis and case studies, the contributors offer scholars, practitioners, policy makers, and general readers a wide perspective on the state’s valuable water resources.

Purchase Here.


Mammoth Cave Curiosities: A Guide to Rockphobia, Dating, Saber-toothed Cats, and Other Subterranean Marvels

Sir Elton John, blind fish, the original Twinkie, President Ronald Reagan’s Secret Service detail, and mummies don’t usually come up in the same conversation—unless you’re at Mammoth Cave National Park! Home to the earth’s longest known cave system, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the oldest tourist attractions in North America.

In this charming book, author and cave guide Colleen O’Connor Olson takes readers on a tour through a labyrinth of topics. She discusses scientific subjects such as the fossils of prehistoric animals and the secret lives of subterranean critters, and she provides essential information on dating in the cave (the age of rocks and artifacts, not courtship). Olson also explores Mammoth Cave’s rich history, covering its use as the world’s first tuberculosis sanatorium as well as its operation as a saltpeter mine during the War of 1812, and shares the inspirational story of the park’s first female ranger. Whether you’re visiting the national park, thinking about visiting, or just curious about a place recognized as one of the world’s greatest natural wonders, don’t miss this delightful guide to the wild and wonderful subterranean world of Mammoth Cave.

Purchase Here.


Kentucky’s Natural Heritage: An Illustrated Guide to Biodiversity

Kentucky’s ecosystems teem with diverse native species, some of which are found nowhere else in the world. Kentucky’s Natural Heritage brings these sometimes elusive creatures into close view, from black-throated green warblers to lizard skin liverworts. The aquatic systems of the state are home to rainbow darters, ghost crayfish, salamander mussels, and an impressive array of other species that constitute some of the greatest levels of freshwater diversity on the planet.

Kentucky’s Natural Heritage presents a persuasive argument for conservation of the state’s biodiversity. Organized by a team from the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission, the book is an outgrowth of the agency’s focus on biodiversity protection. Richly detailed and lavishly illustrated with more than 250 color photos, maps, and charts, Kentucky’s Natural Heritage is the definitive compendium of the commonwealth’s amazing diversity. It celebrates the natural beauty of some of the most important ecosystems in the nation and presents a compelling case for the necessity of conservation.

Purchase Here.

Visit our website to explore all of our titles in Nature and Environmental Studies


Top Ten Disappearing Flora of Kentucky

9780813124964Kentucky, known for its rich soil and temperate climate, is the perfect location for a stunning growth of diverse and beautiful flora. However, due to climate and land use changes, these flowers are quickly disappearing. In Rare Wildflowers of Kentucky, Thomas G. Barnes, Deborah White, and Marc Evans write to spread awareness and promote environmental preservation. Here is a list of the top ten endangered wildflowers in the state, with some even endangered on the national level:

  1. Large-leaf grass of Parnassus

    Large-Leaf Grass-of-Parnassus

    Rosy twisted stalk (image featured at the top of this post)— Rosy twisted stalk is known only from Black Mountain, an area of the highest elevation in the state and home to many rare plants and natural communities. The flowers of the plant hang from its stem like bells.

  1. Sweet fern—The sweet fern is a low-growing shrub, not a fern, despite what the name suggests. The fern is known for its fragrant odor. It can be found only near the Big South Fork River.

    Cumberland Rosemary

    Cumberland Rosemary

  1. Large-leaf grass-of-parnassus—This grass-of-parnassus species is found in wetland seeps and has fewer than three locations in Kentucky, all near the southern border of the state.
  1. Cumberland rosemary—Cumberland rosemary, a member of the mint family, only grows in sandy river deposits among boulders. It is endangered in Kentucky and federally threatened.
  1. Rose pogonia orchid—The rose pogonia orchid is one of nineteen endangered plants located in Bad Branch, the deepest gorge of Pine Mountain.

    Copper Iris

    Copper Iris

  1. Copper iris—The copper iris, a regal-looking perennial plant with a reddish color, can only be found in the wetlands of far western Kentucky. It attracts the insects, hummingbirds, as well as gardeners.
  1. Dwarf sundew—The dwarf sundew, exclusive to a single region of southern Kentucky, is a mere inch or two tall and wide. To obtain nutrients, the sundew captures small insects on its sticky leaves.
  1. Grass pink orchid—The grass pink orchid has disappeared from several wetland sites in the last twenty years and is now known from only one location in the eastern part of the state.

    Blue-Flower Coyote-Thistle

    Blue-Flower Coyote-Thistle

  1. Royal catchfly—A striking red flower, the royal catchfly is pollinated by hummingbirds. This plant is found in prairies, and very little of this grassland habitat remains in the state.
  1. Blue-flower coyote-thistle—The blue-flower coyote-thistle of Western Kentucky has decreased due to changes in hydrology and land use. These flowers are characterized by their tiny flowers, similar to those of thistles.

Venerable Trees of the Bluegrass

With spring well underway and Earth Day steadily approaching, today seemed like a great day to share some beautiful and green places to visit in Lexington as the nature of the bluegrass slowly returns back to life. The trees on this list are called venerable trees. UPK author Tom Kimmerer describes a venerable tree as one of “great age and value.” Despite the mass amount of urban development that has taken off in the past century, some of these ancient beauties are still close to home. Check out these venerable trees that could be in your neighborhood:

The Kissing Tree at Transylvania University


The Kissing Tree at Transylvania University is a huge white ash with a wooden bench around its trunk. It is not a presettlement tree but probably became established either naturally or by planting some time in the 1800s. In the years before 1960, when public displays of affection were not tolerated on college campuses, the Kissing Tree was the one place where holding hands and discreet kissing were not met with a rebuke. Although its role as a facilitator of romance is not as critical today, the Kissing Tree is revered as part of the rich history of the college.

Bur Oak at Commonwealth Stadium


Many tailgate parties have taken place under this tree. Unfortunately, it has sustained extensive mower damage and decay. The fungus is Laetiporus cincinnatus, sometimes called chicken of the woods. The fungus causes decay of heartwood. By itself, the fungus would not be fatal, but ongoing, repeated mower injury has severely wounded the tree. Note the hole caused by boring beetles. Other wood decay fungi are present as well.

Hamburg Giant Grove OldSchoolhouse

The Hamburg development, a large horse farm developed into housing and shopping areas in Lexington, has preserved many venerable trees in or near floodplains, where they will be undisturbed. The Hamburg area is only partly developed, and there are many trees remaining in the existing farmland that could be preserved and become landmarks for their neighborhoods. Tom Kimmerer refers to this area as the Hamburg Giant Grove because it includes dozens of exceptionally large trees, some of the largest remaining trees in Fayette County.

The Old Schoolhouse Oak



Not many trees make it onto the front page of their local paper, but the Old Schoolhouse Oak has done it many times. One of the largest bur oaks in the Bluegrass, and probably one of the oldest, is along the same road as the Ingleside Oak, the old buffalo trace. It is a more discreet tree, less apparent to passersby as it sits on a hill above the road. Until recently, few people were aware of the tree, but today the whole city knows it well.



For more information on where to find venerable trees in the bluegrass, be sure to check out Venerable Trees: History, Biology, and Conservation in the Bluegrass by Tom Kimmerer.


Happy Earth Day!

On this 40th anniversary of Earth Day celebrations, UPK wants to help you embrace a “green” state of mind. Recycling, Energy Conservation, and educating yourself on community and environmental issues are easy things we can do in our everyday lives to make a big impact. The following titles have been written by, reviewed by, and embraced by some of the leading “green” thinkers of our world–EARTH.

New in Paper! Bill Vitek and Wes Jackson, eds., $30.00

“This is a bid to make ignorance an explicit and powerful underpinning of a new epistemology. It will attract widespread attention as a result, and potentially be one of those books that show up in citations for decades to come.” –Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future

“As peak oil, climate change, and other imminent events impose themselves on our industrial economies and begin to undermine the fundamental premises of our culture, I believe that The Virtues of Ignorance will rapidly become a crucial part of the literature of our changing paradigm and will likely be a cornerstone of our new way of being in the world for several decades.” –Frederick Kirschenmann, Distinguished Fellow, Leopold Center, Iowa State University

Frederick Kirschenmann, edited by Constance L. Falk, $40.00

“Kirschenmann is right up there with the other agronomic philosophers- Wendell Berry and Wes Jackson. His book is an unfailingly interesting reflection on his own farming experience. It should inspire everyone to start planting and to think deeply about the food we eat.” -Marion Nestle, author of Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health and What to Eat

“Fred Kirschenmann is a first-team All-Agrarian. His message in this fine collection is both unique and essential for solving what Wes Jackson rightly calls the ten-thousand-year problem of agriculture.” -Bill Vitek, coeditor of The Virtues of Ignorance: Complexity, Sustainability, and the Limits of Knowledge

Paul B. Thompson, $40.00

As industry and technology proliferate in modern society, sustainability has jumped to the forefront of contemporary political and environmental discussions. The balance between progress and the earth’s ability to provide for its inhabitants grows increasingly precarious as we attempt to achieve sustainable development. In The Agrarian Vision: Sustainability and Environmental Ethics, Paul B. Thompson articulates a new agrarian philosophy, emphasizing the vital role of agrarianism in modern agricultural practices. Thompson, a highly regarded voice in environmental philosophy, unites concepts of agrarian philosophy, political theory, and environmental ethics to illustrate the importance of creating and maintaining environmentally conscious communities. Thompson describes the evolution of agrarian values in America, following the path blazed by Thomas Jefferson, John Steinbeck, and Wendell Berry.

Providing a pragmatic approach to ecological responsibility and commitment, The Agrarian Vision is a significant, compelling argument for the practice of a reconfigured and expanded agrarianism in our efforts to support modern industrialized culture while also preserving the natural world.

Paul B. Thompson, the W. K. Kellogg Chair in Agricultural, Food, and Community Ethics at Michigan State University, is the author of numerous books including The Spirit of the Soil: Agriculture and Environmental Ethics.

Silas House and Jason Howard, $27.95

Something’s Rising collects oral histories from a diverse group of individuals from Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Virginia who are fighting mountaintop removal, an ecologically devastating form of coal mining. Taken together, these voices stand as a testament of what it means to be an Appalachian and the value of preserving a culture’s history and spirit through the stories of its people.

The authors have chosen twelve unique voices including Jean Ritchie, the “mother of folk” who doesn’t let her eighty-six years slow down her fighting spirit; Judy Bonds, a tough talking coal-miner’s daughter; Kathy Mattea, the beloved country singer who believes that cooperation is the key to the battle; Larry Bush, who doesn’t back down even when speeding coal trucks are used to intimidate him; and Denise Giardina, the West Virginia writer who ran for governor to bring attention to the mountaintop removal issue. Written and edited by native sons of the mountains, these riveting, personal stories are captured here in this original and highly readable book.

Silas House is the author of the novels Clay’s Quilt, A Parchment of Leaves, The Coal Tattoo, and the play The Hunting Part. His writing has been featured in such publications as Newsday and The Oxford American.

Jason Howard is a writer whose works have appeared in Equal Justice Magazine, Paste, Kentucky Living, The Louisville Review¸ and many other publications.

Explore our entire Culture of the Land Series!