Chris Bolgiano moved to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia in 1974 as a faculty librarian at Carrier Library, James Madison University. She had hair long enough to sit on, but Nixon had just resigned due to Watergate, so that was OK. Since then she has cut her hair, retired as Rare Books and Manuscripts Librarian, and muddled into a so-called writing career.
Beginning with rural-based articles in local magazines, she worked up to travel articles for the New York Times and Washington Post, investigative reports for a wide variety of environmental magazines, essays for various anthologies, and radio commentaries on National Public Radio’s Living on Earth.
Chris’ career reached an apex when a prestigious outdoors magazine commissioned her to write a story about wildlife habitat on mountaintop removal lands (land blasted off the tops of mountains and bulldozed into neighboring valleys to expose coal seams), then refused to publish it as too incendiary. That story later appeared in the book, Living in the Appalachian Forest: True Tales of Sustainable Forestry, (Stackpole Books, 2002) which won two literary awards in 2003.
Her 2005 book, The Eastern Cougar: Historic Accounts, Scientific Investigations, and New Evidence, compiled – for the first time – dozens of confirmations of cougars living wild in the East in recent decades. Another literary highlight was ghost writing an essay for former President Jimmy Carter in the book she edited entitled Mighty Giants: An American Chestnut Anthology, published in 2007.
- Voted Fulks Run, VA Ruritan of the Year, 2009 for the volunteer historical work: Fulks Run Ruritan Club, 1958-2008: A Documentary History.
- Southern Environmental Law Center, Reed Memorial Award for Outstanding Writing on the Southern Environment, 2003, for Chris’ book, Living In The Appalachian Forest: True Tales of Sustainable Forestry.
- Virginia Outdoor Writers Association, Excellence in Craft Contest, 2003, for Chris’ book, Living In The Appalachian Forest: True Tales of Sustainable Forestry.
- Named one of Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine’s Top Ten Outdoors Women of 2000
As Dirt-Worshipping Tree Hugger
Before it got to know me better, the county where I live elected me to a three-year term on the local Soil and Water Conservation Board. I lost the next election on the campaign slogan, “The system sucks. Let’s change it!”
Over the past couple of decades I’ve embarrassed a number of environmental organizations by participating in them in some capacity, including the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club, where I served as the Biodiversity Wildlife Issues Chair from 1991 to 2003; the Virginia Wilderness Committee, whose newsletter I edited in the 1980s, but they didn’t learn their lesson and as of 2013, I am doing it again; and the Valley Conservation Council, where I served a term on the Board in the early 1990s (gluttons for punishment, the VCC recently made me an Honorary Lifetime Board Member).
I have also deeply irritated:
- the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries concerning black bear management;
- the U.S. Forest Service and Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative concerning roadside herbicide spraying; and
- the Virginia Department of Transportation concerning the need to plan for wildlife culverts during the expansion of I-81.