By Christina Whiting
Despite the adventurous and intrepid title, author Michael McBride insists his newly released book, “The Last Wilderness: Alaska’s Rugged Coast,” is a love story. It tells the story of love between a man, a woman and their children, their love for the rugged and remote land that surrounds and sustains them, and an optimistic love for the possibilities of the future.
McBride’s book weaves stories of four decades of experiences shared with his wife, Diane, as they explored Alaska’s wilderness. Living close to the land, the couple created a life and family, deliberately surrounded by nature
The McBrides have lived in China Poot Bay for more than 40 years. They built Kachemak Bay Wilderness Lodge first as their home, and then turned it into their business — and their passion.
In “The Last Wilderness,“ McBride writes about raising a family and creating a model of stewardship. He worked to protect some of the world’s richest marine ecosystems and beautiful coastlines, while raising awareness of both local and global environmental concerns.
“Kachemak Bay Wilderness Lodge has often been called a ‘Center of Influence,’” McBride explained. “It is a tool that has helped other things happen, including raising a great deal of money for Kachemak Bay issues.”
McBride is a master wilderness guide, an interpretive naturalist, skipper and commercially licensed bush pilot. He has dedicated his life to preserving the Alaska wilderness and has been awarded a Legislative citation for practical activism.
McBride is an elected member of the Explorer’s Club and fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. He served as the first Alaskan elected to the Smithsonian National Board, is a trustee for the Nature Conservancy, and board member for the Wild Foundation.
McBride is also an advisory board member and pilot for Lighthawk, where volunteer pilots fly for conservation in America. In addition, he is co-founder of Bateleurs, volunteer pilots flying for conservation in Africa.
McBride founded award-winning environmental/educational institutions, and is known around the world for his preservation of the natural environment.
McBride was a plaintiff in the 1976 State Supreme Court lawsuit that forced the state to buy back $25 million in oil lease sales in Kachemak Bay. He called for, and chaired the first meeting of the Kachemak Bay Citizens Coalition, which led the charge to save the heart of Kachemak Bay State Park and salmon streams from industrial clear cut logging.
McBride’s vision for “?The Last Wilderness” was to share his experiences in an artful and lyrical way, as well was stimulating conversation and encouraging deeper thought about the places people live and love, and how they can leave these places intact for their children and grandchildren.
A writer for as long as he can remember, McBride was first published in 1970 in Alaska Outdoors magazine. He wrote a story on the ethics of hunting and fishing. Over the years, McBride’s essays have been published in numerous magazines and journals, including The International Journal of Wilderness.
“The Last Wilderness” is the title McBride’s publisher gave his book. McBride reflects that the title is a bit hyperbolic.
“The last wilderness is actually deep beneath the sea, in outer space or perhaps in an electron microscope,” he said. “The real wilderness is in our own hearts, which we must explore boldly in order to help build a sustainable future.”
McBride believes part of being alive and healthy involves reinventing oneself regularly. He said the book has been a bit of this for him.
“Whether learning to play an instrument or learning a new language, going outside oneself to reach new heights is critical to remaining vibrantly alive,” he explained.
One way McBride reinvents himself is to regularly step back and consider how he can be of service to the larger world. Today, he’s working on another book, drawing comparisons between Alaska and Africa.
“Alaska and Africa are on opposite ends of the world,” he said “One is hot, the other is cold, but both have wild animals, wilderness and resources sought after by a hungry world.”
McBride said his goal with “Alaska/Africa,” is to reshape a conversation about, “where we’re going with regard to sustainability in both of these areas that are so different, yet so alike.”
McBride’s Alaska focus will use his existing body of work, including writings about his experiences exploring the Aleutians. The Africa focus is based on his conservation work there, including being part of an international team that helped rewrite the master plan for parks recovery in the Congo. These writings have been featured on CNBC and in Africa Geographic magazine.
McBride reflected on his life of environmental preservation.
“Sometimes it feels like I’ve spent my life in a battle,” he explained. “I just wanted to live a quiet life and raise my children. Preserving Kachemak Bay has presented one challenge after another.”
Despite those challenges, McBride remains committed to a goal that has been his lifelong mission.
“I want people to understand how precious Kachemak Bay is,” he said. “Homer is a unique community that has grown from a sleepy little Cosmic Hamlet by the sea, to a place that’s become a role model for other communities in so many ways. This is indescribably precious. This is what we’re working so hard to hold onto.”
“The Last Wilderness” successfully debuted at the Tenth World Wilderness Congress in Salamanca, Spain this October. McBride will sign copies of his book at the Homer Bookstore on Saturday, Dec. 14 between 1-3 p.m.
Learn more about the work McBride and his family are doing at Kachemak Bay Wilderness Lodge by visiting their website, alaskawildernesslodge.com.
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