From Publishers Weekly
McEnany (coauthor of Bode
) offers a spirited account of life among the burly, hard-living men who log New Englands timberlands thats part self-deprecating memoir (hes a self-admitted klutz around chainsaws) and part serious study of both the ubiquity of wood in contemporary America and the future of domestic logging in the Atlantic Northeast. The good news is that the eastern forests continue to be a valuable renewable resource when logged with sustainability in mind, reports the author. The bad news: sprawling development, increasingly onerous governmental regulations, climate change and the consequent truncated logging season are all gnawing at the loggers precarious livelihood. Unlike the forests of the West, where mechanized logging is the norm and huge swaths of forests are clear-cut indiscriminately, New England woodlots are almost all privately owned land of 25 acres or less, and logging is done by the Brush Cats—independent, self-sufficient woodsmen, who are said to have the most dangerous job in America and are profiled with a mix of comic hyperbole, measured awe and deep affection in this loquacious study. (Mar.)
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Although the logging industry is a lightning rod for green concerns, McEnany effectively presents the case for generations of independent loggers who work the Great Northern Forest in New Hampshire. This is his home, and he did his research on the job and in the local bars. He dips deeply into the centuries of economic interdependence between the towns and the woods, while also describing the care with which “brush cats” tend to the trees. McEnany’s wide-ranging narrative includes everything from poet Robert Frost to detailed analysis of the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program, which is regarded as “essential to the future of New Hampshire’s forests.” But this is more a book about men and how they live than it is about the politics of sustainability. And even as he celebrates hard work in the great outdoors, McEnany does not romanticize his subject; he respects the men he writes about too much for that. For a smart discussion about responsible logging practices, Brush Cat should be a title of choice. --Colleen Mondor