BRUSH CAT by Jack McEnany


On Trees, the Wood Economy, and the Most Dangerous Job in America
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A tribute to the work and lifestyle of independent loggers tallies up harsh odds against sustainable future prosperity.

McEnany (co-author: Bode: Go Fast, Be Good, Have Fun, 2005) has spent the last two decades in New Hampshire and other Northern forest environs observing and unabashedly admiring what could be a dying breed: the independent logger, known colloquially as a “brush cat,” praised here as a rugged, hard worker and a protector of America’s forest resources. The author diligently differentiates these individuals from the major timber companies working largely in vast Western forests that tend to be less variegated than Eastern ones. These companies often employ mechanized “clear cutting” that wipes a wooded area clean of every stick and, as a result, have become high-priority targets of major environmental groups. Independent loggers, the author stresses, tend to be as interested as anyone in conserving and managing their “woodlots” in the forest. They cull dead, dying and waste timber, creating space for more valuable, healthy trees to provide a future crop. They work with few assistants, sometimes even single-handedly, cutting their “skid rows” into the target areas so trees felled by hand with chain saws can be dragged out and loaded onto trucks. Government figures and insurance-company actuaries amply bear out the author’s contention that this is America’s most perilous occupation; plenty of gory examples from real cases demonstrate what can go wrong when trees are felled. McEnany also provides updated information on what role climate change appears to be playing in our forests. Warmer winters allow more parasites to survive to attack trees; less snow means frost lines go deeper, the spring “mud season” is protracted and the brush cat’s window of opportunity keeps shrinking.

At times a bit labored in its advocacy, but an eye-opener nonetheless.

Pub Date: March 17th, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-312-36891-3
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2009