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J.M. Mitchell (Author)

Public Trust

Public Trust

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Prairie Plum Press
5.5 X 8.25 in
344 pg

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Ranger Jack Chastain returns to the canyons of New Mexico after fighting wildfires, and steps into a political firestorm. He wants to run, but a beautiful woman makes him take a stand. When mysterious provocations pit neighbor against neighbor, a battle between 'self interest' and 'do the right thing' ensues, trapping Chastain between people who face hard truths about who they can really trust, and a fire that can change everything.

J.M. Mitchell
Author Bio

J.M. (Jerry) Mitchell had a long career with the National Park Service and knows the challenges of protecting beloved places. He retired as Chief of the agency's Biology Division, after working in Yosemite, Grand Canyon and Zion National Parks. He now writes national park mysteries.

Review text

Mitchell grabbed me with the first two sentences: "Please, promise me they won't let it burn. . .It's everything I own."  I wanted details!  Mitchell gave me those details as I couldn't stop turning the pages.

This book reads like nonfiction, yet the story is not.  The conflict between the environmentalists, land owners, developers, etc. make it very realistic.

The dialogue made me feel as if I was privy to the conversations in the restaurant and meeting where issues were supposed to be solved.  I felt for Jack Chastain as he struggled to make things right.  I wanted this good guy to win and yet could relate to his seemingly impossible challenges to regain "Public Trust."

My husband was the state planning coordinator under Wyoming's governor for a number of years.  He worked with water development issues, endangered species, and more state and federal legislation than I ever imagined.  Jack's struggles with strong personalities, people with their own agendas and refusing to listen and understand the choices available brought me back to Wyoming days. How does one gain "Public Trust" while facing seemingly insurmountable odds?  Jack painted this picture for the reader and we felt for those involved.

The fire scene was incredible!  I was right there.  I was frightened.  Great job, Mr. Mitchell!  I learned so much about the attempts to control fires and Mitchell's background showed the reader just how intense and complicated gaining control of the fire is.  Fantastic read!

Review text - Ranger Magazine

Have you ever read a piece of fiction where the dilemmas that the main character faces are so familiar and real that you think you are reading nonfiction? That’s the way I felt when reading Public Trust. It is the story of an NPS resources specialist, Jack Chastain, assigned to Piedras Coloradas National Park in New Mexico. He is at this site after run ning afoul of political interests in his previous assignment in Montana. The author never reveals exactly what the problems were, but obviously they were serious enough to merit reassignment. Chastain arrives shortly after the president has declared a national monument to be jointly managed by the NPS and the BLM. This ac tion has bitterly divided the community of Las Piedras, especially a developer who needs a road across the new monument to make his planned development viable and needs to prove that an endangered frog lives nowhere nearby. Moreover, Chastain is working on a fuel-reduction effort in a part of the park that involves some tree thinning. This plan is the subject of a lawsuit brought by local environ mentalists who misrepresent the thinning as “logging in a national park.” Does any of this sound familiar? As the cliché says, the plot thickens when Chastain becomes involved with the daughter of one of the fiercest opponents of the monu ment, a former state senator. Their relationship is marred by the father’s mistrust of federal employees and the constant sniping at the feds by the developer. Chastain doesn’t have many people to turn to for support because the environmental com munity is led by a eco-Nazi whose only interest is to stop the fuel-reduction program in the park and prevent the planned development adjacent to the monument. When Chastain tries to bring the parties together to discuss their differences and learn what the other side really wants, the environmental leader disrupts the meeting and the mediation effort fails. Everything blows up in a public meeting that the BLM and the NPS convene to listen to the community’s ideas on the future manage About the author ment of the monument. It reminded me of a public meeting that Maureen Finnerty and I once held in south Florida on hunting camps in Big Cypress. Like that meeting, the public meeting in Las Piedras is full of attacks against the federal government and the employees of the two agencies. Finally, Chastain speaks out to tell the two sides that there is room for agreement here but their built-in prejudices against each other and the feds are blinding them to those opportunities. It was a neat end to the meeting, but the next morning, the superintendent (who, by the way, is a pretty sympathetic figure in this novel) informs Chastain that he is to have no further contact with the public and that he has been ordered to arrange another transfer for him. Once again, Chastain has been caught between competing interests that have no interest in compromise. As Chastain is contemplating his future, a f ire breaks out, discovered to have been started by our old friend, the eco-Nazi. During the attempt to control the fire, he and the crews are able to turn the fire into the area that had already been thinned, thereby reducing its rate of spread and its danger to nearby properties outside the park. One of those properties belongs to the former state senator. Chastain has the senator’s ranch house foamed and is able to evacuate his daughter who was trapped by the fire. In one of the burned-over areas, Chastain makes an interesting discovery that promises to change a lot of people’s minds. One thing I liked about this book, since it was written by a former NPS employee, is that the NPS employees in the book talk like NPS employees. Mitchell also accurately catches the environmental-speak that we so often hear. T he anti-fed rhetoric also rings true. Chastain’s position of being caught between competing interests over park issues is certainly familiar to most Ranger readers. T his is a good read, and it’s fun to trace the ups and downs of Chastain’s time at Piedras Coloradas. Of course, his reassignment is canceled and the book’s last scene has him swimming nude in a secluded pool with the former state senator’s daughter. That was the only part that didn’t seem familiar to me. q