Ruin and Recovery tells the story of Michigan's cycles of resource exploitation and conservation from the early days of statehood in 1837 to the present day. Drawing from a large number of resources, including archival records and reminiscences, official documents and individual interviews, Ruin and Recovery charts the development of a conservation ethic in Michigan and chronicles the major battles for environmental protection since the late 1800s.
Michigan has faced two turning points in its conservation history. One came at the end of the nineteenth century when its logging era ended, only to be followed by raging forest fires that left millions of acres of land denuded. Ruin and Recovery's discussion of this first turning point is from historical records and the later recollections of survivors of the ruinous 1908 Metz forest fire in northeastern Lower Michigan. The second turning point came in the late 1960s, when water and air pollution prompted public outrage. This controversy is brought to life through interviews with local residents, scientists, and agency officials who observed the Kalamazoo River to be the most polluted in Michigan. Both turning points set the stage for the historic eras of rebuilding that followed.
Dave Dempsey serves as Communications Director for Conservation Minnesota and consults for other environmental and conservation organizations across Minnesota and Michigan. He is author of William G. Milliken: Michigan's Passionate Moderate and Ruin and Recovery: Michigan's Rise as a Conservation Leader.