Know the Outdoors
From The Detroit Free Press, April 1, 2004 – BY TIM MARCINKOSKI
Legendary writer, photographer and conservationist Ben East felt most comfortable in his northern Oakland County home.
East, whose outdoors travels took him to the most remote reaches of Michigan, Alaska and Canada, once told a neighbor that his modest Rose Township residence on the shore of School Lot Lake was the ideal place to live. Many of his outdoors adventure books were written only a few feet from the tiny lake.
The Outdoor Writers Association of America recognized him as one of the top 35 outdoors writers of the 20th Century, in a group with Ernest Hemingway, Aldo Leopold and Zane Grey.
East, who died in 1990 at age 92, began writing for Booth Newspapers in 1926. His 20-year stint there as outdoors editor and photographer included many of his landmark accomplishments:
* In 1927, East was one of the first in the United States to band bald eagles, often scurrying up dangerously tall trees with tools and camera in tow for a bird’s-eye view of nesting eaglets.
* In 1928-29, East took the first winter photographs of Tahquamenon Falls in the Upper Peninsula. The strikingly beautiful surroundings captured on photos and East’s prodding convinced the Michigan Department of Conservation (present-day Department of Natural Resources) to acquire the area. Five years later, Tahquamenon Falls State Park was established.
* In 1931, East participated in the first winter flight to Isle Royale, where he took movies. Those who saw the pictures were so moved by the pristine wilderness that the island was acquired by the National Park Service.
* On Nov. 9, 1937, East was one of 92 conservationists who met at the Shiawassee Conservation Association. When the meeting adjourned, the Michigan United Conservation Clubs was born, and East wrote the MUCC’s famous conservation pledge: “I give my pledge as an American to save and faithfully defend from waste the natural resources of my country — its air, soil and minerals, its forests, waters and wildlife.”
Today, MUCC is the largest statewide conservation organization in the nation.
* East championed a campaign in the 1940s that led to the acquisition and establishment of Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park.
* In 1946, East gathered MUCC, wildlife biologists and the Department of Conservation to organize a bear hunt in the Dead Stream Swamp near Cadillac. The event spawned the Michigan Bear Hunters Association.
After leaving Booth Newspapers, East became senior editor at Outdoor Life magazine, where he worked for 40 years. One of his books — “Silence of the North” — was made into a TV movie starring Ellen Burstyn.
In 1977, MUCC initiated the Ben East Award, given annually to recognize and encourage distinguished conservation reporting in Michigan.
The Holly Township Public Library houses East’s private collection of outdoors films, which recently were transferred to video. His legendary work is safely tucked away — and available to all — only a stone’s throw from School Lot Lake.
Contact TIM MARCINKOSKI at 313-223-4427 or firstname.lastname@example.org