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William H. Funk

Writer | Documentarian | Environmental Attorney

Staunton, Virginia

William H. Funk

I am a freelance writer with broad experience in natural and human history, land preservation, traditional cultures, and environmental law, policy and politics. I've also produced and directed documentary films.

This site houses my more recently published writing. For more expansive content please visit my website, hyperlinked below.

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Holistic Agriculture Returns to Remotest Appalachia

The Allegheny Mountain Institute is finding innovative ways to replant a local agricultural economy in rural Appalachia. In the 1970s Laurie Berman and her husband bought a farm in Virginia as “homesteaders,” eager to reconnect to the land. When she first traveled through West Virginia en route to the farm, she was amazed and then disturbed by the almost total lack of nutritious, locally sourced food along the way.
FuturePerfect Link to Story
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The Dismal Swamp: One Road out of Slavery Took You Straight into the Boggiest Place You’ve Ever Been

I keep thinking of what it must have taken to escape, and to a place like this no less. Who would have had the courage? A slave on the run—let’s call him Elijah—might have heard barking and other sounds of hounds chasing him. Running low and hunched over, Elijah would have made his way through fields of wheat, their tawny stalks swaying in the slight nighttime breeze. The heat of the Tidewater region could be stifling, but the chance to run didn’t come every day. Maybe his master had left the plantation to join the Continental Army, leaving fewer men to supervise. Elijah would have grown up hearing whispered rumors of a nearby refuge for escapees in the sprawling swamp that lay near his master’s fields. Men like Elijah, hundreds of them, had worked to dig canals into the peaty soil to drain the wetlands and expand the workable farmland. More than a few slaves probably thought about seeking their own liberty. But it must have taken a certain kind of courage to leave, and to seek freedom in the Great Dismal Swamp.
Humanities Magazine Link to Story
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Ivory-Sniffing Dogs Are Running Down Poachers Across Africa

Over the past few years the African poaching crisis has devolved into an overt war on the continent's iconic wildlife. Everything from rhinos to lions to giraffes are routinely slaughtered or enslaved for sale to criminal wildlife traffickers, a continental ecological meltdown worth an estimated $23 billion annually.
Motherboard Link to Story
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Russian Honeybees to the Rescue

America’s honeybees are in serious trouble. Modern large-scale pollination procedures are hard on the honeybee. Our honeybees (Apis mellifera. ) aren’t native to the Western Hemisphere either, originally being derived from southern Europe and brought over by the early colonists, and there is even some concern from conservationists about their varying impacts on our some 4,000 native bee species.
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Where have all the lutungs gone? Mystery monkeys fast disappearing

When I mentioned to some friends that I was writing a piece for Mongabay about langurs, their perplexed reactions were similar: “I thought you were an environmental journalist?”. they said. “Why are you writing about long, tedious passages of fiction? Are you that into Henry James?”. When I assured them that rather than longueurs I was writing about langurs, an Old World family of monkeys, included within the lutung genus — animals facing daunting environmental challenges — I drew blank responses.
Mongabay Link to Story
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Canada’s eastern boreal forest could become a climate change refuge

Mongabay Link to Story
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In the Pipeline’s Path

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is one among several projects threatening rural Appalachian landscapes and communities. Bill and Lynn Limpert searched for years for a place to retire in the country. In April 2009, the couple from Frederick County, Maryland, finally settled on a small montane property near the village of Bolar in Virginia’s Bath County.
Earth Island Journal Link to Story
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Poaching in Africa becomes increasingly militarized

On January 29, a 37-year-old Englishman and ardent conservationist named Roger Gower was piloting a helicopter over Tanzania’s Maswa Game Reserve when he spotted the corpse. With safari guide Nick Bester at his side, Gower, who worked for the nongovernmental Friedkin Conservation Fund, slowly circled the hacked and bloody elephant carcass below.
Mongabay Link to Story
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An American Park

Shenandoah National Park pairs the crucial protection of wilderness with an ugly and undemocratic genesis. The park’s northern border is just 75 miles from the creeping sprawl of Washington, DC. It feels a world away, notwithstanding the geographic proximity of these disparate entities. Shenandoah National Park is notable for several reasons, most obviously because it contains the highest elevations eastward to the Atlantic, topped by Hawksbill Mountain at 4,049 feet.
Earth Island Journal Link to Story
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A Century of Protecting Virginia's Wildlife Resources

In this era of reflexive disdain for “the government” generally, it’s important to remind ourselves of those agencies and public servants whose work, often underappreciated and rarely recognized, contributes so much to the health and happiness of the taxpaying citizenry. And when the benefits of their dedicated labor extend beyond the accommodation of purely human needs and desires, we are witnessing the unlikely combination of governance and altruism.
Virginia Wildlife Magazine Link to Story
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An Agribusiness Revolution Is Needed to Save Africa’s Last Great Apes

Africa is similar to other developing regions of the world in that agriculture is central to the continent’s economy, composing almost one quarter of its GNP and employing nearly two-thirds of its labor force. Historically the loss of most wildlife habitat has been due to subsistence agriculture as a growing rural population met its dietary needs with small landholdings, and farmers cut trees, cleared brush and planted crops to directly support their families and livestock.
Mongabay Link to Story
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South Asia’s Vultures Back From the Brink

Unlovely, unloved and utterly necessary for controlling disease and stabilizing ecological health, vultures are under attack around the world. In Africa, populations of a half-dozen species are nearing collapse due to a combination of human-caused killings ranging from poaching for bushmeat and religious objects to the deliberate poisoning of poached elephant carcasses to destroy the circling scavengers.
Discover Magazine's Crux blog Link to Story

About

William H. Funk

I was born in Kansas, grew up in Kentucky, went to graduate school in New England, and now live in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley where I work as a sometime documentary filmmaker and a full-time freelance writer of articles and essays dealing with the natural world, history, culture, law and politics. As an attorney I've worked extensively with state and federal governments as well as with various nonprofit groups on environmental issues dealing with land preservation, endangered species, clean air and water, and wetlands mitigation.

I am currently writing articles and essays for publication in a wide variety of magazines, including Slate, Humanities, Men's Journal, Virginia Wildlife, Grit, Birdwatcher’s Digest, The Southern Quarterly, History Today, The Utne Reader, African Wildlife News, Earth Island Journal, Wildlife in North Carolina, Blue Ridge Digest, Africa Geographic, Virginia Sportsman, Quest: The Science of Sustainability, Virginia Business, and others. After a year's autodidactic apprenticeship I am gradually learning the ropes of being a professional magazine freelancer.

Documentary filmmaking is another passion of mine. I enjoyed a month with Maine Media Workshops in the summer of 2011 where I wrote, produced, shot, edited and scored a short film concerning the reintroduction of declining seabirds to the Gulf of Maine, an opportunity funded in part through a Madson Fellowship awarded by the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Currently I'm directing a crew of a dozen volunteers in making a film to benefit a local dog rescue group.

I hold a JD and a Master's Degree in Environmental Law from Vermont Law School, the country's top environmental law facility, and have developed a reputation for elucidating complex legal, policy and scientific matters in illuminating and compelling prose. My relevant areas of expertise include endangered species and habitat preservation, hunting and fishing, federal lands management, wildlife crime, natural and human history, animal cruelty, wetlands mitigation, conservation easements, environmental law, wilderness issues, traditional cultures, and rural living and the rural economy. I've worked with numerous environmental NGOs and federal agencies and am a skilled and eager naturalist. I am a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and the Outdoor Writers Association of America, which awarded me their Madson Fellowship for excellence in craft.

I try to spend a maximum amount of my time outdoors - hiking, canoeing, birding, camping, fishing - though in point of fact most of my days are spent in the salt mines of freelancing: pitching, researching and writing. I enjoy literature, cinema, history, music, photography and dogs. Especially pit bulls.