Lecture #18-19: Parks, Wilderness, and the Land Ethic

Suggested Readings:

Roderick Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind, 4th ed., 2001.
Alfred Runte, National Parks, 4th ed., 2010; Ken Burns & Dayton Duncan, The National Parks, 2009.
Curt Meine, Aldo Leopold: His Life and Work, 1988; Susan L. Flader, Thinking Like a Mountain,1974.
John McPhee, Encounters with the Archdruid, 1971.  (about David Brower)
Louis Warren, The Hunter’s Game, 1999; Karl Jacoby, Crimes Against Nature, 2001.
Paul Sutter, Driven Wild, 2002; James Morton Turner, The Promise of Wilderness, 2012.
For online Leopold Archives, see http://www.aldoleopold.org/, especially under “Resources”


I. Creating Parks

various origins for the idea of national parks and wilderness: back to 19th century

Frederic Law Olmsted's Central Park in NYC (cemetery predecessors): park as pastoral retreat within bounds of city, lungs of city, place to recover community: recreation

cf monumentalism of Niagara Falls: "natural wonder" as America's best alternative to European culture, the Edenic landscape of God's creation, the romantic sublime; but crowded, used for waterpower by 1900

1864: US gives Yosemite to CA as state park at prompting of Olmsted; returned to US 1906

1870 Washburn-Langford-Doane expedition to Yellowstone: Cornelius Hedges' idea to set aside "a great National Park"; he and Nathaniel P. Langford lobby extensively

aided by report of Ferdinand Hayden expedition, with illustrations by Thomas Moran and William Henry Jackson: artist and photographer as promoters of image of romantic park

March 1, 1872, Grant signs bill making Yellowstone nation's 1st national park

Runte's "worthless lands" thesis: strongest argument for parks was no other good use

1894: Act to Protect the Birds and Animals of Yellowstone National Park" (game refuge)

II. Promoting Parks

long time before parks had clear bureaucratic management; initial mgmt by Army

difficulty of reaching: take RR to Montana, coach to Mammoth Hot Springs, tours from there

RRs logically became most important promoters of travel to parks: visit "Wonderland"

RRs affiliated with major hotels in parks, handled much of tourist movement: Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone, Northern Pacific RR, 1904; El Tovar at G. Canyon, run by Fred Harvey, 1905 (service jobs for women)

Union Pacific & Northern Pacific linked to Yellowstone; Santa Fe to Grand Canyon, etc.

additional parks: 1890: Yosemite; 1899: Mt. Rainier; 1902: Crater Lake; 1906: Mesa Verde; 1910: Glacier; 1915: Rocky Mountain; 1916: Mount Lassen; 1919: Grand Canyon

1906: Antiquities Act allowed President to set aside national monuments to protect endangered places

massive promotional outpouring from RRs on behalf of parks along their lines; selling points included sublime, playgrounds, recreation, romance, quaintness, Indians, etc.

arrival of tourist automobile (1st in Yellowstone 1915) liberated travellers from RR & hotels: onset of camping, more highway-oriented mode of travel

1916: National Park Service Act creates administrative bureaucracy within parks, partly in response to Hetchy Hetchy, with Stephen Tyng Mather (1867-1930) as first Director

NPS promoted parks as democratic playground for recreation in midst of natural wonders

sought to widen access through road construction, widespread publication efforts

III. Aldo Leopold and the Problem of Game Management

at same time, USFS seeking also to sell self as nation's playground, Sec. of Agriculture issuing vacation house permits at $10-$25 per year, widespread enthusiastic response

Arthur C. Carhart hired by Denver headquarters to plan vacation development at Trappers Lake, argued that no development at all would be better; lake set aside 1920

Carhart allied with Aldo Leopold, who argued for "special primitive area" as designation for Gila National Forest in New Mexico, to be roadless: escape car & industrial use

Leopold emerged as the major theoretician of wilderness in first half of 20th century

born Burlington, Iowa, 1886 (died 1948), Yale BA 1908 and Forestry MA 1909, then on to Southwest to work for USFS doing forestry & game preservation, brief period with Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce to fight for predator control

"disaster" of deer overpopulation on Kaibab Plateau in early 1920s leads Leopold to reverse position on predators, and to argue against eliminating them; data very problematic

Leopold would nonetheless argued that people should be "Thinking Like a Mountain": wolves as much as deer essential to health of ecological community, to prevent overpopulation

went on to become Professor of Wildlife Ecology at University of  Wisconsin, first such position in country; wrote classic textbook on Game Management in 1933; systematized state efforts at regulating hunt via game wardens, license fees, wildlife refuges, raising of pheasants, etc.

Izaak Walton League, founded 1922, would be play central role in national refuge system

Pelican Island created by TR in 1903 as first wildlife refuge; Wisconsin’s Horicon Marsh 1941

1934: first federal duck stamp, finances federal game refuge system, land acquisition; note also that wetlands for the first time start to preserved, even though not "sublime" in original romantic sense

note role of wildlife manager in protecting wildlife species: managing wild populations for sake of protecting hunt, even to point of breeding certain species like pheasants (introduced 1881, first hunting season 1892, very popular game target); hunters' licensing fees fund management system, help finance refuges

1935, Leopold family acquired "The Shack", worn-out farm that they sought to restore; story of efforts contained in posthumous Sand County Almanac, along with defense of "land ethic"

exercise in private stewardship of ecosystem, manipulation of abandoned agricultural land to reproduce healthy biota, native vegetation, mixture of game and non-game species

humans as members of biotic community with ethical responsibility to maintain its health

Leopold dies of heart attack in brush fire, April 21, 1948; Sand County appears next year

IV. Preserving Wilderness: The Battle for Dinosaur

Leopold not alone.  Bob Marshall, (1901-39) trained as forester, worked for USFS & BIA, among most successful New Deal proponents arguing for setting aside wilderness

1929-39, USFS L-20 regulation sets up wilderness, wild, and roadless areas, total rose from .4 to 14.2 mill acres by 1939; new U-regulations after 1939 much more restrictive

private efforts too: Benton MacKaye's 1921 proposal for Appalachian Trail led to massive volunteer efforts, App. Trail Conference 1925, trail completed by 1937, much private

Marshall, MacKaye, Leopold joined Harvey Broome, Bernard Frank, and Robert Sterling Yard in 1935 to found Wilderness Society: elite, wealthy, well-connnected, very effective

Paul Sutter argues that founders of Wilderness Society were principally concerned with impact of motorized recreation and road construction on roadless areas, with National Park Service as key offender

hence: campaign for wilderness in United States comes to focus on roadlessness

linkage of wealth to wilderness & park preservation persistent feature of movement

cf. John D. Rockefeller, Jr.: helped or gave outright Acadia, Grand Tetons, Shenandoah, Great Smoky National Parks to nation, along with New Jersey Palisades

Governor Percival Baxter: purchased 202,000 acres to preserve Mt. Ktahdin to state

in East, issue was acquiring or regulating private land; in West, setting aside government land

John Muir's Sierra Club largely an outing club in 1930s, but poised to become major player

David Brower (b. 1912) becomes editor of Bulletin 1946, executive director 1952

major fight of 1950s: proposed dam at Echo Park in Dinosaur National Monument.  Hetchy Hetchy all over again?  Wallace Stegner edits 1955 This is Dinosaur to educate public

Brower's testimony demonstrated Bureau of Reclamation had miscalculated own data re loss to evaporation and aquifer; 1956, Congress declares no dams in parks

but note: defenders had accepted principle of dams elsewhere on river; also nuclear power

V. Promoting Wilderness: Toward the 1964 Act

1960: Ansel Adams and Nancy Newhall's This is the American Earth becomes first volume in Brower's new Exhibit Format book series.  landscape images make environmental case

Ansel Adams (1902-84) started photographing Sierra Nevada in late 1920s, soon emerged as country's most popular landscape photographer; Sierra Club board member 1934

question: "What is the price of exaltation?"  1962 book responds: In Wildness is the Preservation of the World, photos by Eliot Porter, words by H. D. Thoreau

romantic nature as source of secular faith in crisis of modern world: recovering spiritual values

high cost of book series led to increasing resistance to Brower by Sierra Club board members

goal of late 1950s: legislative authority to preserve wilderness.  First bill, 1957.

1962 report of Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission, chaired Laurance Rockefeller, led way

drafted by executive director of Wilderness Society, Howard Zahniser (1906-64), from editorial and journalistic background like Brower, tireless lobbyist, died just before act passed in 1964

Sept 3, 1964, Wilderness Act: "where earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain": 9.1 mill acres initially

VI. Flooding the Sistine Chapel: Canyons of the Colorado

no time to celebrate.  flood gates at Glen Canyon Dam close Jan 21, 1963, flood The Place No One Knew‑-Sierra Club book published in 1963 to lament loss of wilderness to dam

in response, fight against Marble Canyon and Bridge Canyon dams flooding Grand Canyon

June 9, 1966, Brower runs NYT ad, "Only You Can Save Grand Canyon"; next day, IRS revokes tax-exempt status of Sierra Club, leading by 1969 to Brower's ouster by Board

response, NYT ad: "Should We Also Flood the Sistine Chapel so Tourists can get Nearer the Ceiling?"

Feb 1, 1967, Sec. of Interior Stewart Udall reverses stand, rejects Grand Canyon dams and accepts Four Corners power plant on Navajo Reservation, eventually polluting air in canyon

wilderness: urban population seeking escape in conflict with its own material support system, leading inevitably to paradox of "wilderness management": Leopold's stewardship