Great American Conservationists
Horace M. Albright
Berkeley, California March 13, 1961
Great American Conservationists
In talking tonight about great American conser-vationists, I shall confine
myself to reviewing the lives and works of a few of the greatest. I will not
say much about living men and women who are outstanding in the field of natural
resource conservation and the protection and restoration of our national heritage
of historic sites and structures. We all know that there are many dedicated
conservationists working steadily in all parts of the world. Some of them are
here in this assembly hall tonight. And please forgive my omission of great
deceased conservationists whom you regard as entitled to be mentioned here.
You can undoubtedly think of many, and so can I, and I would agree with you
if you mentioned them to me.
We must also pass over a group of remarkable men who, by their accounts of
their travels and by their teachings, inspired great conservationists but did
not actually engage in activities that directly resulted in protection of natural
resources. Among these men are such Americans as John James Audubon, Henry David
Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and John Burroughs.
There are many definitions of conservation. The Oxford dictionary lists eight,
as I remember. Curiously, the Oxford dictionary contains no definition of conservationist.
It describes the words conservatist and conservator. However, we are all familiar
with the word conservationist as used in America. While we associate the term
with the conservation of natural resources, we are more and more describing
those who are engaged in protecting, preserving or restoring historic sites
and buildings as conservationists. This is true, I suppose, because the largest
and best known scenic areas - forests, parks, wildlife refuges, and historic
sites - are protected in national and state reserves by career specialists.
These experts, as well as men and women deeply interested in their fields of
activities and cooperating with them in and out of the government, are, indeed,
When did we in America take the first important step in the conservation of
natural resources? Who directed or guided that step? We do not know, but it
happened probably in colonial days in some village and was worked out in some
town meeting. The first move of the United States government was probably the
Act of 1832 by which Congress reserved the hot springs of Arkansas in the foothills
of the Ouachita Mountains. Interest had developed in private appropriation because
the springs were regarded as possessing healing qualities by early travelers
who had learned about them from the Indians who, in turn, had bathed in them
probably for centuries. There was even a tradition that members of DeSoto's
expedition visited these hot springs. While the law reserving them may have
been the first official act of our nation in conserving a natural resource,
we do not know who promoted this act of Congress; thus we have no conservationists
of 1832 to acclaim.
It was thirty years later, during the Civil War, that the next measure of national
significance in the realm of resource preservation was enacted into law. On
July 1, 1864, President Lincoln signed a bill granting Yosemite Valley and the
Mariposa Grove of Big Trees to the State of California to be protected in their
natural state. Failure on the part of the State to guard these magnificent areas
was to be followed by reverting of title to the United States. Yosemite Valley
had been discovered in 1851 by a party of local militia men under Major James
D. Savage from the gold-rush town of Mariposa. This body of soldiers was pursuing
Indians who had been preying on the settlements. A few years later, in 1857,
the Mariposa Grove with giant Sequoia trees was discovered by Galen Clark. Visitors
to these great wonders of nature rapidly spread the story of their majesty and
glory to the eastern states and to the nation's capital. A few claims to land
were filed in the Yosemite Valley, and the possibility of this thing of beauty
passing into private hands led to the proposals of legislation to save the region.
Senator John Conness of California introduced a bill to grant to the state the
two tracts of land embracing the Yosemite Valley and the Big Trees. Historian
Carl P. Russell, former superintendent of the Yosemite National Park and chief
naturalist of the National Park Service, has said about the bill: "On the
occasion of the debate which followed, Senator Conness entered into the record
of American conservation the first evidences of the national consciousness of
park values as we conceive of them today. He started the long train of legislative
acts which have given the United States the world's greatest and most successful
system of national parks. It is a fact, of course, that the Senate action of
1864 did not create a national park but it did give federal recognition to the
importance of natural reservations in our cultural scheme."
It is not known just who conceived the idea of protecting Yosemite Valley and
the Big Trees. It may have been Senator Conness or several other men including
Frederick Law Olmstead, the famous landscape architect who planned the development
of New York's Central Park, and who was in California at the time.
It was eight years later that Yellowstone National Park was set apart in the
wilds of what are now known as the states of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. The
exploration party in 1870, known as the Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition,
completed this extensive reconnaissance and on the night of September 19 camped
at the junction of the Gibbon and Firehole rivers. The next day they were to
return to the mining settlements from where they had come. Around the campfire
they discussed ways and means of acquiring this land of natural wonders and
beauty to make it a source of profit to its discoverers and to those who might
follow them in the ownership of it. At length one of the pioneers stated his
belief that the region should be preserved as a national park. The men around
that campfire in a vast wilderness were so high-minded and public spirited that
they agreed to the proposals and decided to carry out the idea.
The man who proposed the Yellowstone National Park was judge Cornelius Hedges
of Helena, a distinguished member of the Montana Bar and very high in Masonic
circles. He often spoke on Yellowstone Park and his part in the exploration
of the region. His early articles in the local Helena paper are historic items
of great importance. Judge Hedges must be left with just this brief notice of
his suggestion of the national park as a means of preserving the great wilderness
at the headwaters of the Missouri.
Nathaniel P. Langford
The man who devoted himself to securing the establishment I of the park was
another member of this expedition of 1870, Nathaniel P. Langford. He was a man
of unusual personality and ability born in 1832in Westmoreland, Oneida County,
New York. He spent his early life on his father's farm. His education was limited
to winter attendance at the district school. At the age of 19 he became a clerk
in a bank at Utica. In 1854 he moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, where he was engaged
in banking, first as cashier of Marshall and Company and later as cashier of
the Bank of Minnesota. In 1862 he went to Montana as second-in-command of the
overland expedition consisting of 130 men and 53 wagons. This party was headed
for the gold fields of the Salmon River, but after traveling 1600 miles most
of its members dropped out in the Prickly Pear Valley of Montana. However, Langford,
with a small group of his comrades, went on to Bannack where gold had been discovered.
Like most mining camps in the West, Bannack soon filled up with bad men from
everywhere and crime became rampant. Langford was one of the men who organized
the famous Montana Vigilantes. In a short time, by summary judgment and quick
execution of murderers, robbers and other criminals, they made the mining settlement
safe for law-abiding citizens. One of the best books on early western mining
excitement is Langford's "Vigilante Days and Ways" which tells of
the action in Montana. The only comparable tale in the annals of frontier justice
is that of San Francisco's Vigilantes. In 1864, when Montana became a territory,
Langford was made United States Collector of Internal Revenue. In 1868 President
Johnson appointed him governor, but the Senate, engaged in violent controversy
with the president, failed to confirm it. In 1870 Langford helped organize the
expedition to explore the Yellowstone country with the surveyor general, H.
D. Washburn. The party was assembled and equipped, and later was joined by Lt.
Gustavus C. Doane and an attachment of soldiers. This was the party that encamped
on the headwaters of the Madison Fork of the Missouri at the junction of the
Firehole and Gibbon rivers on the night of September 19, 1870, as I have mentioned
above when discussing the Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition.
Langford wrote articles about the Yellowstone country which appeared in Scribner's
magazine in 1871. He lectured extensively in the east, advocating action by
Congress in establishing a park. He was responsible for a government expedition
in 1871, under Dr. F. V. Hayden, to further explore this wild land and, with
Hayden, in the winter of 1871-72 worked out the legislative program which resulted
in the creation of Yellowstone National Park by President Grant's approval of
the Act of Dedication on March 1, 1872. Thus was established a vast - I am quoting
from the law - "park or pleasuring ground for the benefit and enjoyment
of the people." The area was larger than Delaware and Rhode Island put
together and very little smaller than the state of Connecticut. While the boundary
lines were drawn to include geysers, hot springs, and the colorful canyon of
the Yellowstone River, the great park was the first important federal reservation
to protect forests. The headwaters of rivers here are the source of three forks
of the Missouri and two of the Columbia. There were also vast herds of wildlife.
Most important of all, in the eyes of Langford and Hayden, were the thermal
phenomena not excelled elsewhere in the world.
Langford was appointed the first superintendent of Yellowstone National Park,
serving from 1872 to 1877 without pay and defraying his own expenses. He certainly
laid the foundations for conservation of public lands in the interest of recreation
and scientific research. He returned to Minnesota in the late 1870's and engaged
in business and professional activities until his death in 1911. He was an active
member of both the Montana and Minnesota historical societies, writing papers
of lasting value on events in the early territorial days in which he had participated.
While Langford was moving west from Minnesota, a young Scotsman, John Muir,
was attending the University of Wisconsin. Born in 1838 in Dunbar, Scotland,
he had immigrated to the United States with his family in 1849, and settled
on a farm where he worked until going to college. Muir, with his scientific
turn of mind, was something of an inventive genius. The university with all
its opportunities did not hold his interest and, while still some distance from
graduation, he began a series of wanderings. First he traveled the Great Lakes
region; then after a sojourn in Indianapolis where he worked in a wheel plant,
he walked a thousand miles to Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and Florida, and
took a boat to Cuba. This was in January 1868. By the end of March, Muir was
in San Francisco, having arrived there by ship and the usual trip across the
Isthmus of Panama.
Muir went at once to Yosemite Valley where he began explorations, studies,
and conservation activities that were to occupy the rest of his life. While
he married and reared a family on a farm near Martinez, he spent months at a
time in the High Sierra. He wrote articles, which appeared in eastern magazines,
on the mountains and the forces that formed and carved them, on the forests
of giant sequoia trees, firs, pines, cedars, on shrubs, and on wildlife, large
and small. His writings were in exquisite prose and commanded wide attention.
He early insisted on steps to save something of the vast natural heritage of
scenery, flora and fauna of the Western states and Alaska. He particularly pleaded
for forest and watershed conservation and was a factor in the establishment
of a commission to report on forest conditions. Out of this commission's work,
which will be treated later in this paper, came recommendations which culminated
in the Act of 1891, authorizing the establishment of forest reserves.
Meanwhile, working with Robert Underwood Johnson of Century Magazine, Muir
and his California friends brought about the establishment of Yosemite National
Park on October 1, 1890. (Two days earlier, September 29, 1890, Sequoia and
General Grant National Parks had been created in response to a movement under
the leadership of George W. Stewart, whom many of us well remember, and whose
work I wish I could discuss in more detail.) This large Yosemite Park surrounded
the 1864 grants to California of the Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove
of Big Trees and preserved some 1600 square miles of scenic High Sierra country.
The next year, 1891, Muir helped organize the Sierra Club. He was its president
until his death in 1914. For 40 years Muir was the leader and effective worker
in every great conservation movement on the Pacific Coast. He was the leader,
for instance, in the establishment of Mt. Rainier National Park in the state
of Washington in 1899. In 1906 he and the Sierra Club secured the recession
of Yosemite Valley and the Big Trees to the federal government by act of Congress
and had them incorporated in Yosemite National Park. Muir's death was probably
hastened by his efforts to prevent the city of San Francisco from obtaining
the right to flood Hetch Hetchy Valley, one of the two great gorges of Yosemite
So beautiful are Muir's writings that I am tempted to quote just a few lines
from a letter he wrote, probably in 1870. "Do behold the King in his glory,
King Sequoia! Behold! Behold! seems all I can say.... Sometime ago I left all
for Sequoia and have been and am at his feet, fasting and praying for light,
for is he not the greatest light in the woods, in the world? Where are such
columns of sunshine, tangible, accessible, terrestrialized? - Well may I fast,
not from bread but from business, bookmaking, duty-going, and other trifles,
and great is my reward already for the manly, treely sacrifice." Again
writing of the Yosemite Valley he said, "The sun growing red, the mountain
silvery grey, purplish, one mass without detail, infinitely soft. The river
in the foreground silver between bosky willow banks green, orange, and lemon
yellow, every leaf and spray reflected in the mirror water, its beauty doubled."
In 1945 Linnie Marsh Wolfe of Berkeley completed a superb biography of John
Muir entitled "Son of the Wilderness." It received wide acclaim everywhere,
including the Pulitzer Prize, which unfortunately was announced only after her
untimely death by cancer.
In the Rocky Mountains, a devoted disciple of Muir, Enos Mills, accomplished
some notable things in the field of conservation of natural resources. He, too,
wrote well and covered in many articles and books the story of the mountains
which were his home from die age of sixteen. He was a naturalist of wide self-taught
knowledge, and while never approaching Muir as a writer nor in achievement in
preserving great features of our native landscape, be was the father of the
Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, that vast wilderness astride the Continental
Divide. He lived high up on the slopes of Long's Peak the great square-headed
mountain, 14,255 feet in altitude, that dominates the park. Here he studied
summer and winter, wrote for the Saturday Evening Post, and prepared manuscripts
for his books, while carrying on propaganda for more parks, better wildlife
conservation, and higher appreciation of wilderness values. He was a quarrelsome,
difficult man and, because of his irascible nature and unpredictable emotions,
often destroyed or impaired his good works.
John F. Lacey
Before temporarily leaving the subject of national parks - the first conservation
reservations created by the United States government - I would like to refer
to the national monument system which comprises areas in Alaska and Hawaii as
well as on the mainland. The total area of more than 80 national monuments exceeds
nine million acres. The monuments range from the Statue of Liberty in New York
Harbor to the Katmai or the Valley of the Ten Thousand Smokes in Alaska. These
monuments have been proclaimed by the president under the Antiquities Act of
June 8, 1906 (long known as the Lacey Act), which authorizes the reservation
and dedication of government lands, or lands donated to the federal government,
as national monuments if they contain historic or prehistoric sites, structures,
or features of scientific interest, value and importance.
The law was the work of Congressman John F. Lacey of Iowa. Born in West Virginia
in 1841, Lacey served in the Civil War and then went to Oscaloosa, Iowa, where
he practiced law. He was in Congress from 1889 to 18gi and again from 1893 to
1907, and during Theodore Roosevelt's term he was chairman of the House Public
Lands Committee. Lacey became interested in the ancient cliff dwellings and
other long-abandoned prehistoric Indian structures of the southwest, and sought
to have two or three national parks established to protect them. He eventually
succeeded in the creation of Mesa Verde National Park which stands as a monument
to Lacey, a place of great beauty and priceless value because of the size of
its prehistoric ruins and their fine state of preservation. As Lacey became
more and more interested in saving sites and structures of archeological significance,
he ran across other areas of scientific value such as the petrified for-est
of Arizona, and unusual plant communities such as the great saguaro cactus forest
and the California coast redwoods. He drew up a bill which authorized the withdrawal
of such areas and provided machinery for their selection, study and protection.
Theodore Roosevelt enthusiastically signed the Lacey Act and then proceeded
to use it in a rather extraordinary way. He covered over one thousand square
miles of the Grand Canyon with the monument withdrawal to prevent location of
mining claims. This action was carried to the United States Supreme Court in
the famous Cameron Claims case, and the president was sustained. In 1943 Franklin
D. Roosevelt settled the Jackson Hole controversy in Wyoming in the same way.
Again, the Monument Act was attacked and upheld in the federal court. It is
obvious, therefore, that the Lacey Monuments or Antiqui-ties Act is a conservation
measure of enormous value and im-portance. John F. Lacey also interested himself
in bird conser-vation, but time does not permit explanation of his effective
achievements in the field of wildlife preservation.
Stephen T. Mather
Thus, Lacey, Langford, Muir, and Mills probably influenced the national park
and monument type of natural resource conservation more than any others prior
to 1915. On January 21 Of that year there entered on duty in the Department
of Interior a man destined to be regarded as the greatest of conservationists
in the realm of national parks, and to a lesser extent in the field of wildlife
conservation. Stephen T. Mather was appointed assistant to the Secretary of
the Interior, who at that time was Franklin K. Lane, a friend of Mather's and
a fellow student at the University of California in the 1880's. Mather, then
47 years of age, was a successful chemical manufacturer who had made a comfortable
fortune and had a yearning for public service but not necessarily as an official.
He had been active in the Prairie Club of Chicago and the Sierra Club of California.
He lived in Chicago, used as a summer place the old family house in Darien,
Connecticut, wandered all over the country, knew thousands of people in all
walks of life, helped Jane Addams a Hull House, and aided in the launching of
Poetry Magazine by Harriet Monroe. He served four years on the New York Sun
Tall, handsome, genial, generous, high spirited and friendly, he was immensely
popular wherever he went.
Mather's job in Washington was to establish a bureau of national parks to coordinate
park operations with the national monument system, and to work out uniform policies
of their management, protection and improvement. By 1915 there existed 13 national
parks and many national monuments, most of them nominally under the Secretary
of Interior but some supervised by the Department of Agriculture and others
by the War Department. Mather with a few aides went to work, and by August,
1916, had the National Park Service authorized by law. He created a new bureau,
which was just what Secretary Lane and President Woodrow Wilson wanted. Mather
was appointed the first director and held that office until stricken with a
serious illness late in 1928. During his official life he was instrumental in
securing the establishment of several new national parks including Grand Canyon,
Mt. McKinley, Zion, Lassen, and Bryce Canyon parks in the west, and congressional
authorization for the Great Smoky Mountains, Shenandoah and Mammoth Cave east
of the Mississippi. He secured funds for extinguishing private holdings, saving
forests, and building roads and trails. He was very active in initiating the
work of the Save-the-Redwoods League - a movement to acquire large tracts of
Sequoia sempervirens or California coast redwood, almost all of which had passed
into private ownership. He fought off successfully many attempts to commercialize
resources of the national parks. He selected men for superintendents and rangers
who for years have composed the backbone and leadership of the extraordinary
organization which is the National Park Service. Stephen P. Mather is indeed
the father of this fine bureau and he will doubtless be regarded always as one
of the greatest of American conservationists. Mather died in Boston on January
When turning to forest conservation, our minds recall at once the colorful
Gifford Pinchot and his antics and achievements - the building of the Forest
Service, the Ballinger-Pinchot case, and other headlines of 40 or 50 years ago.
However, before focusing on Pinchot, let us have a look at forest conservation
progress after the creation of Yellowstone National Park in 1872. Four years
later, in 1876, the Commissioner of Agriculture was instructed to appoint a
competent scientist to study the forests of the United States, their influences
on climate and water supply, and the means of preserving them. Dr. Franklin
B. Hough was selected for this task and he did it well. His report led to the
creation of a Division of Forestry in 1877, which was directed to continue research
in the field of tree culture.
Meantime the United States geological surveys, of the Territories were turning
in valuable data on forests, rivers and minerals. In 1879 the Geological Survey
as we now know it was established under the brilliant Clarence King. One of
its objectives was to gather information about our natural resources, including
forests. The results of explorations by the Geological Survey and the studies
by the Division of Forestry and by a commission which John Muir helped establish,
led to the Act of March 3, 1891, under which the president was authorized to
create forest reserves by proclamation. President Benjamin Harrison acted at
once and, on March 30, 1891, set aside a great forest reserve bordering Yellowstone
National Park on the east and south, and placed it under the superintendent
of Yellowstone for administration.
By 1894 Presidents Harrison and Cleveland had established reserves embracing
a total Of 17 million acres and, in a single day, February 22, 1897, Cleveland
proclaimed over 20 Million acres to be permanently set aside. Later this same
year Gifford Pinchot entered government service and in 1898 was made chief of
the Division of Forestry. It must be understood that the division was in the
Department of Agriculture while the forest reserves were held and managed in
the General Land Office of the Department of the Interior. This agency is now
the Bureau of Land Management.
Here President Theodore Roosevelt enters the story and, of course, was a foremost
conservationist almost overnight. He had lived in the west after college days,
had hunted in the Dakota Bad Lands, in the Big Horn Mountains and in Jackson
Hole in Wyoming, and even in the northern Rockies. He was a naturalist in his
own right, an especially skilled ornithologist and a writer on big game hunting
and American history. He organized the Boone and Crockett Club, first an organization
of hunters, then a conservation agency, and still a very potent organization
today. He was a warm personal friend of Pinchot who became a member of the famed
"tennis cabinet." Together they planned enormous expansion of the
forest reserve system and they carried out the program. Between 1901 and 1909
Theodore Roosevelt set aside over 148 million acres of public land as national
forests. At length Congress passed a law prohibiting the establishment of forest
reserves by proclamation. Roosevelt, knowing perfectly well that if he vetoed
the bill Congress would pass it over his veto, decided to sign it. But first
he had Pinchot and his chief aides come to the White House with maps. All of
them, including the president, got down on the floor and worked out national
forest extensions which he established forthwith by proclamation. Then he signed
the bill putting an end to his own powers. After this, no more forest reserves
were created except by Congress. In 1905 Congress, on the president's recommendation,
transferred the forests from the Department of the Interior to the Department
of Agriculture and put them under Pinchot, whose title was changed to chief
Theodore Roosevelt was also interested in conservation of wildlife, waters,
parks, and minerals. In 1908 he presided over one of the most notable gatherings
of powerful men ever assembled in this country. It was the Governors' Conference
of May 13 to 15 at the White House. It thoroughly discussed the whole field
of conservation of natural resources. One of the first speakers was Andrew Carnegie
on "Conservation of Ores and Related Minerals" and one of the last,
Samuel Gompers, on "Conservation in Relation to Labor."
On June 8, 1906, President Roosevelt signed the Lacey Act already referred
to, under which the president could set aside as national monuments areas containing
historic or prehistoric sites and structures and objects of scientific interest
and importance. Roosevelt, as I have mentioned before, used this Act by declaring
the Grand Canyon a national monument when promoters sought to control the Canyon
by filing baseless mining claims. He put monument reserves on top of forest
reserves if some very important areas could not otherwise be preserved. He encouraged
the creation of more national parks including such areas as Mesa Verde, Crater
Lake and Wind Cave. It is interesting to observe this process in the case of
the Grand Canyon, which was a forest reserve by one of these early proclamations.
A wildlife reserve was created and, in addition, the area was proclaimed a national
monument reservation to stop the mining claims. These reservations, one on top
of the other, prevailed until the national park was created in 1920.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt must also be rated as a conservationist because of
his encouragement of forest extension, the shelter belt, the work of the Civilian
Conservation Corps, the Soil Conservation Service, and so forth. However, Theodore
Roosevelt's extraordinary achievements, considering the time and conditions,
the small appropriations, and the dearth of trained men, must rank well above
those of his distant cousin. In his autobiography Theodore Roosevelt devotes
a long chapter to his work preserving the natural resources of the nation. At
the end of it he summarizes his chief results. Of the 1908 Governors' Conference
he says, "It is doubtful whether, except in time of war, any new idea of
like importance has ever been presented to the nation and accepted by it with
such effectiveness and rapidity as was the case of this conservation movement
when it was introduced to the American people by the Conference of Governors."
Then he goes on to list his Conference on Country Life in America; the Oregon
land frauds in which U.S. Senator Mitchell was convicted; the creation of five
national parks, 51 bird refuges, and game laws for Alaska; the reestablishment
of the buffalo herd in Yellowstone National Park; the creation of the Grand
Canyon game preserve with 1,492,920 acres; the enormous extension of the forest
reserves; and the proclamation of national monuments after the passing of the
Lacey Act and reclamation acts of 1902 and 1907.
Gifford Pinchot now deserves the spotlight. He was born in Simsbury, Connecticut,
on August 11, 1865. He graduated from Yale in 1889, studied at L'Ecole Nationale
Foretiere, at Nancy, France, and in Switzerland, Austria, and Germany. His first
professional work was on the Vanderbilt Estate, Biltmore, near Asheville, North
Carolina. People can still visit that estate and marvel at Pinchot's performance
in modern forestry practice. Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., the great landscape
architect and engineer who died just recently, was also engaged in carrying
out the Vanderbilt Estate program. Pinchot moved to Washington where he served
the Secretary of the Interior as a forest investigator, and then became chief
of the Forestry Division in the Department of Agriculture. He aided in the creation
of the Yale School of Forestry and wrote an important treatise on forest management.
In 1905 he became chief forester of the new Forest Service when it took over
the vast reserves. He headed that bureau until he clashed with Richard A. Ballinger
in 1910 over Alaska timber claims. President Taft asked for the resignations
of both men. There was much confusion in the handling of this case. We all know
that a great injustice was done to Ballinger; perhaps Pinchot, too, was a victim
of circumstances. His reputation was unharmed, however, and he went on to become
governor of Pennsylvania twice - serving eight years in non-consecutive terms.
At Harrisburg he organized a strong State Bureau of Forests and Waters, aided
park development, and always supported strong fish and game management. Governor
Pinchot was a wealthy man, kept a fine home in Washington at all times and,
like Stephen Mather, was generous in expenditure of time and money in public
service. He had wide influence in all parts of the country. He died October
4, 1946. Many of us, I am sure, have read his autobiography, "Breaking
Dr. C. Hart Merriam
What can be said about conservation of birds and mammals and about the leading
wildlife conservationists? This is a field in which many men rendered distinguished
service. Only two will be mentioned here.
The first is Dr. C. Hart Merriam, born in New York, December 5, 1855, and educated
at Yale and Columbia. While still a college boy he got a place in the Hayden
Survey of 1872 which explored vast territories in the northwest, including Yellowstone
Park. In 1875 he was with the United States Fish Commission at Woods Hole, Massachusetts,
and the next year he collected marine specimens in the Bay of Fundy. Then, for
six years, he practiced medicine at Locust Grove, New York. In 1883 he spent
a season as a surgeon on a ship sailing in the Arctic, carrying scientists looking
into seal fisheries. In 1885 he entered the Department of Agriculture and became
the organizer and chief of the Bureau of Biological Survey - now the Fish and
Wildlife Service. Dr. Merriam built this agency into one of the best scientific
organizations in the federal government and, by his zeal, capacity and vast
knowledge of all wildlife problems, was able to get immensely important results.
He developed younger men as explorers, investigators, writers, and supervisors,
and thus laid the foundations for the successful function of a bureau devoted
to conservation of wildlife, birds, mammals and fish. His avocation or hobby
was studying the Pacific Coast Indians, in which field he became an authority.
He is, and probably always will be, regarded as the authority on bears of all
kinds, from the great Alaska brown grizzly to the little bears of Louisiana
and the Florida Everglades. Dr. Merriam died in 1942.
T. Gilbert Pearson
In many respects T. Gilbert Pearson, who passed away the very next year, was
the man who did the most interesting and spectacular as well as effective work
in bird preservation. He is the man who built the National Association of Audubon
Societies into a vast organization for the study and protection of birds. He
also used this federation of societies as a great force in game bird and mammal
protection. At times he devoted his enormous energy, talent, and zeal in supporting
national park and national forests movements.
Born in Illinois, in 1874, he was reared in Florida where he developed a love
for birds. He went to Guilford College, North Carolina, where he obtained two
years' tuition and board through the sale to the college of his extensive mounted-bird
collection, plus a promise to put in a reasonable amount of time in extending
the collection. He graduated from the University of North Carolina and became
a teacher at a girls normal school at Greensboro. He was teaching biology and
was expected to keep his girls at work in laboratories with scalpel and microscope,
but he soon learned that they knew little or nothing about birds, trees, or
any natural history subject. So he wrote to the president of the school, Dr.
Charles B. McIver, to ask permission to teach outdoors part of the time. "Permit
me," he wrote to the president, "to teach these young women to know
the red oak and white oak, the hickory, hornbeam, dogwood and Jersey pine. Give
them a chance to learn the names of the trees under which their pupils will
play at recess. Let me teach this class to know the flicker, the great crested
flycatcher, the chickadee and other birds that are needed to protect the crops
of the parents who will send their children. These girls should learn to know
the birds so they can tell their pupils about them - their correct names, where
they migrate, and of what value they are on the farms and in the orchards. They
should be given the opportunity to acquire that intelligent appreciation of
nature that can only come from study of the outdoor life in the woods and fields."
It need only be added Pearson received permission to teach as he pleased.
Pearson was a man of great charm, a dialect-story teller, easy to meet and
know, and so obviously sincere that people listened to him, became attached
to him, believed in him, and helped him. He organized an Audubon Society in
Greensboro, the first in North Carolina, then went to the legislature and in
19o3 put through a game law which was the first in any southern or Gulf state.
His class sent him a wire which read: "We join the birds in singing your
Gilbert Pearson's next move was to New York, where he became secretary of the
National Association of Audubon Societies which had been started in 1886 by
two great conservationists - George Bird Grinnell, founder of "Forest and
Stream," and ornithologist William Dutcher. In 1920 Pearson was advanced
to the presidency of this national association, which now is known, of course,
as the National Audubon Society. Pearson was largely instrumental in building
the enormous membership in the federated societies and the endowment of $1,514,527
by 1932 when he became president emeritus.
Pearson's greatest work was probably his leadership in getting Congress to
adopt legislation to outlaw the use of feathers of non-game birds on millinery.
The fight to stop this practice was begun in 1875, but 38 years later the deed
was done by including in schedule "N" of the 1913 Tariff Act a provision
prohibiting the importation of feathers. Canada passed a similar law in 1915.
Pearson told of stirring times at the steamship piers in New York City in the
autumn of 1913. Women returning from Europe could not leave the wharf until
they surrendered the bird feathers adorning their hats. Thousands of travelers
were relieved of their decorations "so proudly home aloft as evidence of
recent visits to London or Paris millinery houses." The great bulk of the
feathers were egrets. When smuggling began Pearson aided the Treasury Department
in confiscation work. Soon 150 thousand dollars worth of feathers had been confiscated
and were to be sold in government auctions. Pearson succeeded in getting them
as a donation, to be used for educational purposes, including 150 egret feathers
worth eight dollars apiece and 150 Bird of Paradise feathers worth thirty-five
Pearson's next triumph was his leadership in securing the adoption of the Migratory
Bird Treaty with Canada, which was ratified in 1916. Under it the federal governments
of Canada and the United States can prescribe season and bag limits on ducks,
geese and many other birds - almost all, in fact, that are classed as migratory
game birds. Finally, Pearson was indefatigable in pushing through Congress a
bill for large and strategically located game refuges which are even now being
located, acquired and policed. These are of vast importance especially as rest
areas for birds in migration.
It is regrettable that I cannot list the conservation accomplishments of other
great ornithologists and mammalogists such as Dutcher, Chapman, Palmer, Nelson,
Bailey, Fisher, Hornaday and Seymour; and of such living wildlife experts as
Darling, Murphy, Gabrielson, Cottam, Peterson, Pough, John Baker, and many others
active in the conservation bureaus of both the federal government and the states.
Leaders in Reclamation and Soil Conservation
We finally come to the reclamation of and land and soil conservation. They
can be treated only lightly here. I might start by saying that I regard the
Geological Survey as one of the greatest agencies ever created. It has sometimes
been called the "mother of bureaus". It now has four divisions: topographic,
which makes our maps, both geologic and topographic; the water division which
is headed by Luna B. Leopold, brother of Starker Leopold of this University
of California faculty; the geological division; and the conservation division.
This bureau is a synthesis of the great surveys of the early years after the
Civil War. Out of this agency there grew also the Reclamation Service, the Bureau
of Mines and, to a large extent, the Forest Service. In addition, it greatly
influenced the creation of the National Park Service. It is today an outstanding
In 1901 President Theodore Roosevelt said, "The forest and water problems
are perhaps the most vital internal problems of the United States." That
was just after he took office. On June 17, 19o2, he signed the Reclamation Act
and he appointed Frederick Hayes Newell as the first head of the bureau, a position
Newell held until 1914. In that time he supervised the planning, building or
initiation of projects costing 100 million dollars. Great dams were built on
many rivers of the west, canals cut the hills, and dry grass and sagebrush lands
of the desert were made to "bloom like the rose". Among the early
spectacular projects were the Salt River with the Roosevelt Dam back of Phoenix,
Arizona, and the Shoshone Dam now called the Buffalo Bill Dam on the Cody Road
to Yellowstone which completed the project dreamed of, and actually started
by, Buffalo Bill.
After Newell's time came such vast projects as Hoover Dam and Grand Coulee.
Today, as a result of Newell's early work his organizing genius, his engineering
foresight and skill, and the work of his successors, we have a bureau that serves
128,000 farms with an irrigated area Of 3,500,000 acres, and partly serve 3,200,O00
additional acres. Power generated in fiscal year 1959 was 26,500,000 kilowatt
hours, and the revenue amounted to 71 million dollars. Newell spent the last
years of his life at the University of Illinois as a consultant and author of
valuable engineering texts. He died in 1932.
As a memorial to Newell it is fitting to quote from Theodore Roosevelt: "Newell's
single minded devotion to this great task, the constructive imagination which
enabled him to conceive it, the executive power and high character through which
he and his assistant, Arthur P. Davis, built up a model service - all of these
have made him a model servant. The final proof of his merit is supplied by the
character and records of the men who assisted him."
I might add that Elwood Mead, who was at the University of California for many
years, became Commissioner of Reclamation in 1924 and was head of that great
bureau until 1936, when he passed away. He had a record even more impressive
than Newell's, but of course did not build the bureau or formulate its early
policies. He was, however, a very great engineer and bureau chief, and we are
very proud to refer to him as belonging to the University of California, although
this was not his Alma Mater.
Hoover and Roosevelt
Now there was a tremendous forward movement in natural resource conservation
in the early 1930's. Herbert Hoover was and is at heart a great conservationist.
His leadership in the design of the program for the development of the Colorado
River Basin, the allocation of its waters among the states, and the settlement
of the controversy between Mexico and the United States over Colorado River
waters will always be remembered. Hoover was a consistent friend of the National
Park Service, the Forest Service, and the old Bureau of Fisheries, now a part
of Fish and Wildlife Service.
The arrival of Franklin D. Roosevelt on the Washington scene and his adoption
of a policy of vast appropriations to meet problems of the depression brought
the Tennessee Valley Authority, a great and successful conservation project
covering fields of navigation, flood control and power development. other features
of Roosevelt's program were the Civilian Conservation Corps in which 300,000
men were enrolled at a time, and which eventually touched the lives of well
over two million men; the shelter belt in the plains states; new national parks
including Kings Canyon in California and Olympic in the State of Washington;
great power and irrigation developments such as Grand Coulee, Bonneville, Big
Thompson and others; and extension of the national forests and establishment
of many new wildlife preserves. These are but a few of the conservation projects
of the 1930's prior to World War II. Of course, Franklin D. Roosevelt, like
his distant cousin, did not personally originate any of these exceptionally
spectacular projects. He, as the earlier Roosevelt, was a catalyst, who was
a born naturalist and all his life had been interested in native fauna and flora,
had collected specimens of animals and birds, and had been deeply interested
in the forests of his mother's estate at Hyde Park.
Harold L. Ickes
Mention of President Franklin D. Roosevelt must invite comment on his Secretary
of Interior, Harold L. Ickes, probably the greatest conservationist secretary
we have ever had. Many people did not like him for he had a disposition that
he himself admitted was that of an "old curmudgeon". When called to
Washington in 1933, Ickes was a Chicago lawyer, long interested in Indians,
national parks, and wildlife. He was a civic worker, participating in good government
in Chicago and such fine programs as that of Hull House. He had been a "Bull
Mooser" in 1912 and was devoted to the conservation ideals of Theodore
Roosevelt. He had great courage. He was not too impressed with the importance
of Congress, but was a good administrator. He was a hard worker. President Roosevelt
appointed him public works administrator, oil industry coordinator, and in a
host of other assignments he was the executive. Ickes had more to do with the
creation of the Soil Conservation Service than any other man, selecting the
outstanding expert in the world for its director, Dr. Hugh Bennett, about whom
I would like to speak for at least a half hour. Secretary Ickes was responsible
for the Natural Resources Planning Board which did superlative work in the 1930's
under the immediate direction of the President's uncle, the Honorable Frederick
A. Delano, and his chief aide, Charles W. Eliot, II. Ickes also must receive
the credit for the establishment of the large Kings Canyon and the Olympic national
parks, for he solved the problems that had delayed these projects.
Now may I lay aside for a moment my natural modesty, both personal and as a
member of the class of 1912 at the University of California, to admit that Secretary
Ickes was a good executive when he retained me in his administration and some
years later appointed my illustrious classmate, Newton B. Drury, as director
of the National Park Service. Of course, it has been said that there are no
unknown U.C. 1912 men and women!
John D. Rockefeller, Jr.
Last May 11, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. died in Tucson, Arizona, at the age of
86. Mr. Rockefeller had been a conservationist at heart since he was a boy on
his father's estate in Cleveland, Ohio. He also had an intense interest in trees,
shrubs and flowers, and in landscape preservation and restoration. About 1910
he joined a group of citizens of New England acquiring lands that became Acadia
National Park in Maine. In a period of 50 years he expended well over three
million dollars in Acadia Park for lands and in road and trail building and
landscape restoration. In 1926 he undertook the acquisition of private lands
in the northern part of the Jackson Hole, Wyoming, which made possible the Grand
Teton National Park as it is today. More than 20 million dollars have gone into
the purchase of upwards of 40 thousand acres of land and in the construction
of inns and lodges and other visitor facilities. He made five million dollars
available to match funds of North Carolina and Tennessee to acquire a half million
acres of magnificent mountain terrain and vast primeval forests that are now
the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He expended over three million dollars
in cooperating with the State of California in saving redwoods in Humboldt County
and in the High Sierra under the program of The Save-the-Redwoods League. Professor
Ralph Chaney is president, Dr. Newton B. Drury is executive director and President
Emeritus Robert Gordon Sproul has always been League Treasurer, and I hope he
will be for many years to come.
John D. Rockefeller, Jr. was responsible for saving some 15 thousand acres
of exceptionally fine stands of sugar and ponderosa pine in Yosemite National
Park at a cost of 1,700,000 dollars, matched by federal funds. I am sorry I
can only outline a few of Rockefeller's national park contributions here tonight.
As a matter of fact, his conservation activities deserve a whole paper. In 1926,
for instance, he undertook the restoration of the old Colonial Capital at Williamsburg,
Virginia. This is the greatest project of its kind ever planned and carried
through. Upwards of 50 million dollars have gone into this historic preservation
enterprise, and it is still unfinished. Williamsburg has been handsomely endowed,
thus assuring its permanence and the continuance of its inspirational and educational
program into the indefinite future.
J. Horace McFarland
I have left to the last mention of J. Horace McFarland, citizen of Harrisburg,
Pennsylvania, printer, publisher of books, founder of the American Rose Society
and leader for many years of the American Civic Association, now the American
Planning and Civic Association, which has been a powerful organization supporting
city and regional planning, national and state parks, and other worthy causes.
Dr. McFarland was an influential factor in saving Niagara Falls. He was the
chief spokesman for scenic preservation at the Governors' Conference at the
White House in 1908. He was the leader, outside of government circles, in promoting
the establishment of die National Park Service. He and the late Edward Bok of
the Ladies Home Journal zealously developed the early fight against billboards.
There are these and many more firsts and leaderships to be credited to Dr. McFarland.
He was a giant among conservationists.
Work to be Done
Is there work for new conservationists, for young conservationists? There certainly
is, and there are many projects that need prompt attention. We have to acquire
much more land for recreation. We need more city, state, and national parks,
more seashores. There are important forest problems requiring attention. Wildlife
preservation needs much consideration, such as the saving of wetlands and adequate
control of pesticides that detrimentally effect birds, mammals and fish. The
whole problem of pollution of streams brings up enormous problems still to be
solved. Then there is the problem of smog. The pressure of urban expansion on
open spaces is most serious. The dangers of inadequate planning of highways
and freeways to prevent destruction of scenic and historic resources are evident.
These are but a few of the problems facing us as our population grows rapidly
toward the 300 million mark in the year 2000.
President Kennedy's recent resource message to Congress outlined some of these
problems and indicated his intention of positive action to solve them. I am
sure that all of us trust that the Congress will give him the fullest support
for the great benefit of our country. I am sure all of us hope, too, that someday
we can include him and some of the leaders of the present Congress among our
great American conservationists.
The concept of environment is generally discussed in ecological textbooks;
Odum (1959) and Clarke (1954) are good examples. My ideas on the subject have
been developed at some length in Bates (1960).
Anthropology textbooks generally devote some space to the problem of defining
"man," which of course can become complicated in connection with such
related terms as "hominid," "protohominid," and the particular
species, Homo sapiens ("Modem Man"), that we know today. I have tried
to review this briefly in a recent little book, Bates (1961). Man as a tool-maker
is the subject of a book by an eminent authority: Oakley (1949). The problem
of what is "human" has been explored imaginatively in a novel by "Vercors"
(jean Bruller, 1953) which turns on the discovery Of some living "ape-men"
in a remote part of the world. The reference to Leakey (1960) will provide an
introduction to his ideas about Zinjanthropus; the volume on The Evolution of
Man in which this paper occurs includes numerous other relevant discussions.
The review by Kluckhohn and Kroeber (1952) provides an introduction to the
complexities of culture - as does any anthropological textbook. Again a novelist
(Golding, 1954) has provided a penetrating (if discouraging) analysis of essential
The Micronesian culture mentioned in the discussion of Analysis of the Environment
has been discussed by Bates and Abbott (1958).
The possible ecology of the protohominids has been reviewed by Bartholomew
and Birdsell (1953). My vocabulary for stages in cultural history comes from
Childe (1936). The decay in the once fertile lands of the Tigris-Euphrates and
the failure of the African groundnut scheme have been described by Calder (m61)
in a book that might be characterized as an ecological approach to human history.
Vernadsky's concept of the noosphere is treated by Chardin (1956) in a paper
included in a big book (Man's Role in Changing the Face of the Earth) that contains
a great deal of material relevant to the present discussion.
Introducing: Horace Marden Albright
In 1959 a group of friends of Horace Marden Albright banded together
to establish a Lectureship in Conservation in recognition of his
distinguished contributions to this cause. The Lectureship was established
at the University of California, of which Horace Albright is a member
of the class of 1912, a devoted alumnus, and an honorary LL.D. (1961).
Associated with the National Park Service from its establishment,
he served as its second Director from 1929 to 1933. He then joined
the U. S. Potash Company, which he served as both General Manager
and President. Thus his career encompasses both the preservation
and the utilization of natural resources. His years of service as
Chairman of the Board of Directors of Resources for the Future,
Inc., typify his concern with the conservation of resources for
the enjoyment, inspiration, and economic utilization of all people,
both now and in the future. These published lectures are dedicated
to this end.
By appropriate coincidence, Dr. Albright was appointed as Regents' Lecturer
at the University of California in 1961, the first year of the newly established
Lectureship. This has provided the opportunity to publish a lecture by Horace
Albright as the first of a series to be based on the Horace M. Albright Lectureship.
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