Conservation Minnesota

Breath of Wilderness

Lifelong conservationist and Conservation Minnesota Voter Center board member Kristin Eggerling is now an author too.Breath of Wilderness By Kristin Eggerling  Celebrating the life of a legendary Minnesota conservation hero, she has written Breath of Wilderness: The Life of Sigurd Olson. Intended for young audiences, the book is the “story of Sigurd Olson’s love for wild places and how that love transformed his life.” Olson was a leader in the struggle to preserve what is now the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA) and a renowned nature writer. The book can be ordered at:

Q.  What inspired you to write the book?

A.   I was intrigued when I realized that there were no books written for children about Sigurd Olson. I had an idea of his role in saving wild places, but didn’t know many details. When I read more about Sig’s life and his love affair with nature, I was even more inspired. Sig’s story is an important one for children and adults to know.

Q. What is the message you hope young readers will receive?

A. I hope that young readers will gain a sense of the history of the fight to save the BWCA and other wild places and of Sig as a writer and wilderness hero. Sig’s story is about finding your passion and standing up for what you believe even in the face of numerous obstacles and rejection. I also hope that young readers might be interested in the effect that the wilderness has on people and the sense of adventure that Sig felt when he was exploring the outdoors. I hope they will want to visit wilderness areas and spend more time outdoors. And, of course, I hope they will be inspired to work to protect the wilderness, as Sig did.

Q.  How is Sig relevant to today?

A.  Sig is very relevant today. Young people are becoming alienated from nature and spending more time indoors with their electronics and gaming devices. There is even a term for this — nature deficit disorder. The BWCA and all wilderness continues to be threatened by development, especially sulfide mining. Climate change is another threat to wild places. Sig’s story is about finding one’s passion or discovering what you love and working to make the world a better place. This is timeless.

Q.  How hard was it to write this book?

A.  Sig’s story is so good that I wouldn’t say it was hard to write. However, much research was needed; and, perseverance, too. Like all writers, the manuscript was rejected many times before my publisher, Fulcrum, expressed interest. This is my first book so I had a lot to learn, but I thoroughly enjoyed the process. In Sig’s papers I found a note that he had written to himself. “Devote some time each day to dreaming about the book and something will come to you.” I posted it above my computer to remind myself.

Q.  What advice do you have for young conservationists (and young writers) based on this experience?

Discover what you love. Don’t give up. This speaks to both saving wild places and writing.

Kristin Eggerling is passionate about preserving wild places, reading and exposing kids to the outdoors. Currently, she works as a freelance writer, community activist and parent. She has worked in the public health field, coordinated watershed education, taught sociology at the University of Minnesota Crookston and served as the administrator of the Environment and Agriculture Budget Committee at the Minnesota Senate. Kristin holds a B.A. in sociology from Augsburg College and an M.A. in sociology from the University of Manitoba.

Kristin splits her time between Hallock in the far northwest corner of Minnesota — twenty miles from Canada — and Minneapolis, and is originally from Iowa. She fell in love with Sigurd’s life story and believes that others will, too. Kristin received a grant from the McKnight Foundation through the Northwest Minnesota Arts Council to help complete research necessary for this project. This is her first book.

About Dave Dempsey

Dave Dempsey

Dave Dempsey is a resident of Rosemount and author of three books on environmental subjects. He formerly served as Conservation Minnesota’s communications director.

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