A review of “An Active Hand,” by Peter Bundy

Written by Zander Evans

Long time Guild member, Peter Bundy, published a new book this fall that would make a great holiday gift for any forest steward. Sections of An Active Hand read like conversations I have at the end of a Guild Gathering when we gather in a local pub to ponder what we’ve learned on a woodlot. Peter tackles important, almost philosophical questions such as the meaning of sustainable forestry.  For many guild members, parts of An Active Hand will be familiar. For example, his pithy description of species gradients that follow moisture and topography should be familiar to all foresters, even if the species examples are from a different region. By starting with fundamentals, Peter has provided a book that is accessible without a forestry degree, while the call to consider restoration forestry will engage even the most seasoned professional. 

One of the Guild’s core principles is to value both the best available science and the insights of place-based experience – and to integrate the two. Every section of An Active Hand includes reflections of Peter’s long career in the woods. Discussions of how to implement restoration have details and clarity gained only from experience. Peter’s direct experience of disturbance – a devastating windstorm on his own property – gives his writing a heart that content from second-hand sources can’t achieve. At the same time, Peter is careful to ground his reflections on research. Throughout An Active Hand, there are pointers back to seminal works of science in our field. 

It’s appropriate that An Active Hand has been released in time for the Guild’s 25th anniversary. The Guild has been part of Peter’s professional journey and there are parts of his book that recall conversation I can remember from the Guild meeting in Boulder Junction, Wisconsin in 2006 or Duluth, Minnesota in 2016. In the same way the book integrates a career of learning and practicing in the woods, we are looking forward to reflecting on the Guild’s 25th anniversary to reflect on lessons learned, particularly those that are clearer in hindsight. An Active Hand is conscious about using lessons learned to tackle the challenges of the future and I look forward to using the book to spark conversations with Guild members about the next 25 years.  

At its core, An Active Hand is a call to rethink forest stewardship as restoration forestry. Peter makes an excellent case for casing the work many Guild members do as restoration forestry. Build on the same three legs that support the Guild – ecology, economy, and culture  restoration forestry provides promising path forward even in the face of a changing climate and an influx of invasives.