Acclaimed journalist and ecologist Dr. Anders Halverson will present on Thursday, January 20th at 7 PM at the Nature Learning Center in Albany as part of Tin Mountain Conservation Center’s continuing Nature Authors Series. Halverson’s new book, An Entirely Synthetic Fish: How Rainbow Trout Beguiled America and Overran the World, is the winner of the 2010 National Outdoor Book Award, and it is a fascinating glimpse at the social and political underpinnings of the late nineteenth century through the present that shaped stocking policies in the U.S. 


While it is true that the book is about a fish species, the story that Anders tells is a historical look at natural resource management in general and the issues facing society that shaped management strategies. A more sanctimonious writer could find much to criticize about the stocking of rainbow trout over the past 130 years; however, the book treats past efforts objectively and acknowledges that blunders were made with only best of intentions. And blunders there were as efforts to propagate rainbow trout in essentially all of the U.S. and much of the world dramatically change aquatic ecosystems and the fish itself.


Stocking of fish was seen as an answer to feeding the country, optimizing the productivity of all water bodies, and to increasing the hardiness of the Americans, who in the late 1800s we seen to possess “notoriously less hardihood and endurance than the generation which preceded

[their] own,” according to U.S. Congressman George Perkins Marsh. With all of this attention focused upon fish, it may not be surprising to learn that U.S Fish and Wildlife started out as the U.S. Fish Commission; the “Wildlife” emerged later.


Anders also does not shy away from the interesting problem that many fish and game departments face — their responsibility to sportsmen (who pay for licenses and whose money is then possibly used to bankroll conservation and restoration instead of stocking) demanding more catchable fish? Anders sticks to the facts, remains a detached, and avoids stepping into the pulpit to extol the value one particular side over the other. However, as one reviewer noted, “Even with this professional detachment, there is a keen sense of understanding and compassion shown for the stories he tells. For, if nothing else (but there is a lot of “else”), the book is full of stories told with the storyteller’s art.”


An Entirely Synthetic Fish was published in spring 2010 by Yale University Press and has been the subject of acclaim since it arrived on bookstore shelves. The book and author have been featured in the Washington Post on NPR’s Diane Rehm Show, and the book has won praise from anglers, environmentalists, and academics alike for Anders’s ability to blend first-rate scholarship with compelling storytelling. White Birch Books will be on hand with copies of An Entirely Synthetic Fish for signing so that you can read more about the project, which was funded by the National Science Foundation.


Tin Mountain Conservation Center nature programs are made possible thanks to LL Bean and the Evenor Armington Fund. Community programs are open to the public. Donations of $5 per family and $3 per person are appreciated, members are free. Tin Mountain Conservation Center is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit environmental education program providing hands-on programs in the greater Mount Washington Valley for over thirty years.