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WASHINGTON, DC, UNITED STATES, January 18, 2023 / — America was built on white pine—yet many don’t realize the critical role of this iconic tree. An early symbol of independence, white pine adorned the colonists’ flag at Bunker Hill and was used to build ships, houses, and bridges from the 1600s through the Civil War and beyond. Yet by the end of the 19th century, clear cutting had decimated once-great white pine forests.

A slim but quite powerful volume.”


In “White Pine: The Natural and Human History of a Foundational American Tree” (Publication Date: January 5, 2023), ecologist and writer John Pastor takes readers on walk through American history through the lens of white pine. From pre-colonial times to the present day, Pastor shows how the Indigenous and American cultures of the North Woods have developed and been informed by this tree. He also examines how white pine’s role as a foundational species makes it critical for ecosystem health.

Traveling into the deep geologic past, Pastor details the evolutionary journey that led white pine to become a keystone species from Minnesota to Maine. He then shows how white pine played a crucial role in American history, from ship masts that helped colonists win the Revolution to clear-cutting in the 18th and 19th centuries that generated three times more wealth than the California gold rush. At the same time, such reckless destruction inspired Thoreau’s ideas about the value of wilderness and seminal paintings from the Hudson River School that sparked a new era of conservation.

Since the clear-cutting era, naturalists, foresters, and scientists have taken up the quest to restore white pine forests. Pastor follows this centuries-long endeavor, illuminating how these efforts shaped Americans’ understanding of key scientific ideas, from watershed preservation to forest succession and the importance of wildfires. A deep understanding of white pine ecology is more critical than ever, as new threats are on the rise, from diseases like blister rust to climate change.

With a keen naturalist’s eye, Pastor weaves together cultural and natural history, celebrating human’s connections to white pine and the larger natural world. “White Pine” shows that hope for healthy forests lies in understanding the lessons of history so that iconic species survive as a touchstone for future generations.

John Pastor is an ecologist and Professor Emeritus at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, where his teaching and research focused on the natural history and ecology of northern ecosystems. He is the author of “What Should a Clever Moose Eat?” and “Mathematical Ecology of Populations and Ecosystems”.

“White Pine: The Natural and Human History of a Foundational American Tree”
Island Press Paperback | Publication Date: January 5, 2023
276 pages | 6×9 | Price: $30.00
ISBN: 978-1-64283-141-2
Book Page:

Founded in 1984, Island Press works to stimulate, shape, and communicate the information that is essential for solving environmental problems. Today, with more than 1,000 titles in print and some 30 new releases each year, it is the nation’s leading publisher of books on environmental issues. Island Press is driving change by moving ideas from the printed page to public discourse and practice. Island Press’s emphasis is, and will continue to be, on transforming objective information into understanding and action. For more information and further updates be sure to visit

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