1872-1889

1872-1889 |
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1872

Congress passes "An Act to set apart a certain Tract of Land lying near the   Head-waters of the Yellowstone River as a public Park,", thus establishing   Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, the first in the history of the nation and   of the world; the Report of the Superintendent of the Yellowstone National

  Park for the Year 1872, published the following year, provides a portrait of

  the new park at its birth.

  At the initiative of J. Sterling Morton of the State Board of Agriculture,

  Nebraska observes "Tree-Planting Day" on April 10, inaugurating the tradition

  which soon becomes known as Arbor Day. By 1907, Arbor Day is observed annually

  in every State in the Union, most importantly in the nation's schools, where

  (as revealed in works such as the 1893 booklet Arbor Day Leaves), it provides

  several generations of young Americans with their most significant training in

  conservation principles and practice.

  1872-74

  In a reflection of strong popular interest in American scenery, including

  wilderness scenery, the Appleton Company publishes Picturesque America; or,

  The Land We Live In, ed. William Cullen Bryant, a massive 2-volume work

  containing reports and descriptions of scenic places along with superb

  engravings based on the work of noted artists; the work circulates widely,

  creating enduringly influential popular images of some of the nation's most

  famous scenic spots.

  1873

  Under the influence of Marsh's Man and Nature; or, Physical Geography as

  Modified by Human Action, Franklin B. Hough reads a paper at the annual

  meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in

  Portland, Maine, entitled "On the Duty of Governments in the Preservation of

  Forests;" this inspires the Association to prepare and submit a Memorial on

  forest preservation to Congress, which initiates Congressional interest in

  forest protection.

  Initial publication of Forest and Stream magazine, which--especially under the

  leadership of George Bird Grinnell, senior editor and publisher from 1880 to

  1911--becomes the major American sportsmen's magazine by the turn of the

  century and a forum for conservation advocacy.

  Congress passes "An Act to encourage the Growth of Timber on western

  Prairies", known as the Timber Culture Act, granting settlers 160-acre plots

  if they have cultivated trees on one-fourth of the land for ten years; the act

  reveals the growing public concern with conservation of forest resources,

  though it ultimately proves unenforceable and is repealed in 1891.

  mid-1870s

  Scribner's Monthly publishes reports from the Western expeditions led by

  Nathaniel P. Langford, Ferdinand V. Hayden, T.C. Evert, John Wesley Powell,

  and others; these greatly stimulate interest in the natural beauties of the

  West.

  1874-75

  Typifying the increasing popular interest in wild nature as a resource for

  human recreation, Scribner's Monthly publishes articles advocating the virtues

  of family camping in various spots throughout the country.

  1875

  American Forestry Association founded by concerned botanists and

  horticulturalists; before c.1900, it emphasizes appreciation and protection of

  trees rather than forestry as an economic problem.

  Congress passes "An act to protect ornamental and other trees on Government

  reservations and on lands purchased by the United States, and for other

  purposes," forbidding the unauthorized cutting or injury of trees on

  government property.

  1876

  John Muir publishes "God's First Temples: How Shall We Preserve Our Forests?,"

  one of his earliest pieces of published writing, in the Sacramento

  Record-Union; in it, he suggests the necessity for government protection of

  forests.

  The Appalachian Mountain Club is founded in Boston, emphasizing a sense of

  stewardship toward the New England mountain wilds as part of its

  organizational philosophy; it is one of the nation's first and most important

  private conservation-related organizations.

  After Congress allocates $2,000 in a Department of Agriculture appropriations

  bill for "some man of approved attainments" to report to Congress on forestry

  matters, Franklin B. Hough is appointed first Federal forestry agent, with the

  task of gathering statistics about the state of the nation's forests.

  1877

  Carl Schurz begins a four-year term as Secretary of the Interior; under his

  leadership, the Department of the Interior takes an active interest in

  conservation issues for the first time, and Schurz himself advocates

  far-sighted conservation policies, such as the creation of forest reserves and

  a Federal forest service.

  Congress passes "An act to provide for the sale of desert lands in certain

  States and Territories," known as the Desert Land Act, offering claimants up

  to 640 acres at $1.25 an acre if they have irrigated them.

  1878

  John Wesley Powell, then the geologist in charge of the U.S. Geographical and

  Geological Survey of the Rocky Mountain Region, publishes Report on the Lands

  of the Arid Region of the United States, a pioneering work recognizing the

  West's unique environmental character, advocating irrigation and conservation

  efforts in it, and calling for the distribution of Western lands to settlers

  on a democratic and environmentally realistic basis.

  Franklin B. Hough begins to issue a landmark four-volume Report upon Forestry

  to Congress, the first fruit of the Federal government's nascent forestry

  activities and a wide-ranging survey of information and issues pertinent to

  the management of the nation's forests.

  1879

  Congress passes a sub-section of an appropriations bill officially

  establishing the U.S. Geological Survey as a bureau of the Interior

  Department, with responsibility for "the classification of the public lands."

  Congress authorizes the appointment of a Public Lands Commission to review

  Federal public land policy; members include John Wesley Powell, Clarence

  Dutton, and Clarence King. The Commission spends several months travelling in

  the West, surveying land use; late in the year, it submits a Report to

  Congress expressing differing views among the Commissioners on how to

  rationalize land policy, however all its recommendations are ignored by

  Congress.

  1880s

  The American Forestry Association and the American Association for the

  Advancement of Science advocate designation of Western timberlands as

  permanent public reservations.

  1880

  At the direction of the New York State Legislature, a commission led by State

  Survey Director James T. Gardner and Frederick Law Olmsted prepares a Special

  Report... on the Preservation of the Scenery of Niagara Falls, advocating

  State purchase, restoration and preservation through public ownership of the

  scenic lands surrounding Niagara Falls. Accompanied by a Memorial to the

  governor signed by more than a hundred prominent citizens, this Report defines

  the direction of the public campaign to save the beauties of Niagara.

  1881

  Division of Forestry provisionally established in the Department of

  Agriculture, with Franklin B. Hough as its first chief; until the Pinchot era,

  its role is largely confined to dispensing information and technical advice.

  The remaining volumes of the Report upon Forestry are issued until 1884 under

  Hough and his successor, Nathaniel H. Egleston.

  1882

  In this and the preceding year, the campaign to save Niagara through the

  creation of a state-owned reserve is energized by the publication in New York

  and Boston newspapers of a series of letters calling attention to the dangers

  threatening Niagara's scenery; the 1882 letters, by Jonathan Baxter Harrison,

  also circulate in the form of a pamphlet entitled "The Condition of Niagara

  Falls, and the Measures Needed to Preserve Them".

  Clarence Edward Dutton publishes "The Physical Geology of the Grand Canon

  District" in the Second Annual Report of the United States Geological Survey,

  a precise and beautifully discerning account of a remarkable natural region

  which demonstrates the exceptional scientific and even literary merit of many

  of the government-sponsored scientific survey reports published in this era.

  American Forestry Congresses meet in Cincinnati and Montreal.

  The Wheelman, a magazine for enthusiasts of the new bicycling craze, begins

  publication; it subsequently publishes a number of articles urging the

  enjoyment of bicycle touring to wild and scenic spots, reflecting the growing

  interest in nature-based recreation in America.

  George Perkins Marsh dies in Italy, where he has been serving as U.S. Minister

  since 1861; his grave is in the Protestant Cemetery in Rome. At the time of

  his death, he is working on additional revisions to the latest edition of Man

  and Nature (which he had retitled The Earth as Modified by Human Action).

  1883

  The American Ornithologists' Union, a professional society dedicated to bird

  protection, founded in New York City; like the first Audubon Society (founded

  in 1886 by George Bird Grinnell, though it lasted only two years), this

  reflects the growing concern with birds and bird protection in American

  culture.

  1884

  Undertaking his research under the influence of Marsh's Man and Nature,

  Charles Sprague Sargent, the visionary director of Harvard University's Arnold

  Arboretum, publishes a Report on the Forests of North America (Exclusive of

  Mexico) as part of the Tenth Census; in addition to important scientific

  information, this influential work warns of the need to reform destructive

  timber management policies.

  1885

  New York State establishes the Adirondack Forest Preserve, stipulating that it

  "shall be kept forever as wild forest lands": a milestone in conservation

  legislation.

  Formal opening (July 15) of New York State Reservation at Niagara, including a

  speech by James C. Carter, later published in pamphlet form, which links the

  spiritual importance of scenery to a philosophy of public preservation; the

  Reservation is a precedent-setting attempt to preserve scenic beauty while

  accommodating natural-resource use, and the capstone of a citizen campaign of

  conservation advocacy.

  1886

  In an appropriations bill for the Department of Agriculture, Congress creates

  the Division of Economic Ornithology and Mammalogy, and grants the Division of

  Forestry permanent status within the Department; C. Hart Merriam heads the

  Economic Ornithology Division, and Bernhard E. Fernow is Forestry Division

  chief.

  1887

  Exemplifying the significance of sportsmen as conservationists, George Bird

  Grinnell and Theodore Roosevelt found the Boone and Crockett Club, which plays

  a major role in associating big-game hunters with the conservation movement;

  the Club eventually publishes several volumes of writings on hunting and

  conservation, including American Big Game In Its Haunts: The Book of the Boone

  and Crockett Club, in 1904.

  Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux prepare a detailed plan for the

  restoration of the landscape immediately surrounding Niagara Falls; published

  as a Supplemental Report of the Commissioners of the State Reservation at

  Niagara, the plan shows how the challenges and paradoxes posed by scenic

  preservation and the accommodation of visitors in a carefully-conserved

  natural setting intersected with those of the emerging profession of landscape

  architecture, of which Olmsted was the nation's greatest practitioner.

  Charles Sprague Sargent founds and directs Garden and Forest, a literate,

  thoughtful, and informative weekly which does much to foster awareness of and

  interest in American forests, trees, horticulture, landscape design, and

  scenic preservation during the ten years of its publication.

  In an early act of wildlife conservation, Congress passes legislation granting

  the Seal Rocks off Point Lobos to San Francisco in trust for the people of the

  United States, on condition that the city "shall keep said rocks free from

  encroachment by man, and shall preserve from molestation the seals and other

  animals now accustomed to resort there."

  1889

  William Temple Hornaday publishes The Extermination of the American Bison, a

  report to the Secretary of the Smithsonian which had originally been printed

  in the Smithsonian's annual report for 1887, severely criticizing the

  near-extermination of bison in the West, and advocating protection of what

  remained of the herds.

  Congress passes "An act to provide for the protection of the salmon fisheries

  of Alaska," the first of several such Federal statutory attempts to protect

  this economically valuable resource.

  1889-91

  Editorials by Robert Underwood Johnson in Century magazine help turn public

  opinion in favor of Federal forest conservation.

Photos by daxphotography.com