David Backes next to birch tree

About David

David Backes is author of the national award-winning biography of famed naturalist / author / environmental leader Sigurd F. Olson. He has produced three other books in the Olson series, including the new book of Olson’s journals, A Private Wilderness. He is working on his first novel, with plans for more fiction and nonfiction in the future. 

David’s lifelong connection to nature began when he was just two years old and heard the haunting cry of gulls over the Gulf of Mexico. Family trips to national parks and other wild places in the U.S. and Canada, and frequent visits to his county park on the shore of Lake Michigan filled him with awe and wonder. In 1963 his family discovered Ely, Minnesota, and the canoe country at its doorstep. That experience would shape his life. Over many years and visits, and one year working as a reporter for the Ely Echo newspaper, David came to discover not only a wilderness that stirred his soul, but a direction in life.

That direction eventually led to Sigurd Olson, who encouraged David at a time when he most needed it. He went back to school and earned a doctoral degree in environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, then spent a career as a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He loved teaching, but is a writer at heart, so these days you will find him most often in the little writing room at his home in southeast Wisconsin, or soaking up inspiration along the shore of Lake Michigan.