1890-1900

1872-1889 |1872-1889.html
1890-1900 |
1901-1907 |1901-1907.html
1908-1911 |1908-1911.html
1912-1920 |1912-1920.html
 

1890s

  In a time of growing awareness of the potential benefits of scientific

  forestry, the forestry movement shifts its emphasis from saving trees to

  promoting scientific forest management.

  Photographer A.P. Hill uses his photographs of the California redwoods to

  publicize them as part of campaign to prevent their destruction.

  1890

  In less than a week, Congress passes legislation establishing Sequoia National

  Park, California (in a bill enacted September 25), and Yosemite and General

  Grant National Parks, California (in a bill enacted October 1).

  In a letter published in the March 5 edition of Garden and Forest,

  Boston-based landscape architect Charles Eliot makes the innovative proposal

  that a private association be created for the purpose of protecting and

  preserving regional scenic treasures through permanent trusteeship: "As

  Boston's lovers of art united to found the Art Museum, so her lovers of nature

  should now rally to preserve for themselves and all the people as many as

  possible of the scenes of natural beauty which, by great good fortune, still

  exist near their doors."

  At the behest of editor Robert Underwood Johnson, and as part of their

  campaign to make Yosemite a national park, John Muir publishes two landmark

  articles on wilderness preservation in Century magazine, "The Treasures of the

  Yosemite" and "Features of the Proposed Yosemite National Park."

  1891

  Congress passes "An act to repeal timber-culture laws, and for other

  purposes", known as the Forest Reserve Act, repealing the Timber Culture Act

  of 1873 and empowering the President to create "forest reserves" (later known

  as national forests) by withdrawing land from the public domain; this creates

  the legislative foundation for what became the National Forest system.

  President Benjamin Harrison issues a Presidential Proclamation setting aside a

  tract of land in Wyoming as the nation's first forest reservation, the first

  unit in what eventually becomes the National Forest system.

  The effort to establish a privately-funded tax-exempt association to protect

  Massachusetts's natural and historical treasures, spearheaded by Charles

  Eliot, culminates in the incorporation of the Trustees of Public Reservations

  by act of the Massachusetts legislature; this organization is the nation's

  first land trust, and the immediate inspiration for Great Britain's National

  Trust.

  First International Irrigation Congress meets in Salt Lake City, promoting the

  cause of large-scale irrigation in the West.

  1891-1902

  Charles Sprague Sargent publishes his fourteen-volume The Silva of North

  America; A Description of the Trees Which Grow Naturally in North America

  Exclusive of Mexico, the seminal work of American dendrology.

  1892

  In San Francisco, John Muir and a group of associates meet to found the Sierra

  Club, which is modelled on the Appalachian Mountain Club and explicitly

  dedicated to the preservation of wilderness.

  New York State creates the Adirondack Park, including both portions of the

  Adirondack Forest Preserve and private holdings, explicitly recognizing the

  region's value as wilderness.

  President Benjamin Harrison issues a Proclamation setting aside a tract of

  land in Alaska as a forest and fish culture reservation (known as the Afognak

  Forest and Fish-Culture Reserve), thus creating what is in effect, if not in

  name, the first national wildlife refuge.

  Lafayette Houghton Bunnell publishes the third and final edition of his memoir

  Discovery of the Yosemite, and the Indian War of 1851, Which Led to That

  Event, first published in 1880; it offers readers a striking account of the

  powerful impact of Yosemite's grandeur on one of its earliest white visitors,

  while also pointing to the intimate and complicated connection between the

  roots of preservationist sentiment and the course of violent conquest.

  1893

  Historian Frederick Jackson Turner publishes an essay entitled "The

  Significance of the Frontier in American History," claiming that American

  character and democracy have been decisively and positively shaped by the

  continuous experience of the frontier, which has now--according to the 1890

  census--finally disappeared beneath the last waves of settlement.

  1894

  Congress passes "An Act To protect the birds and animals in Yellowstone

  National Park," known as the National Park Protective Act, which establishes

  the principle that national parks exist in part to protect wildlife and are

  not to be used for hunting.

  Revision of the New York State Constitution strengthens protection of the

  Adirondack Forest Preserve by declaring that these lands "shall not be leased,

  sold or exchanged, or be taken by any corporation, public or private, nor

  shall the timber thereon be sold, removed, or destroyed;" this provision marks

  a triumph of the preservationist aspect of conservationism.

  Bird Day first observed, on May 4, on the model of Arbor Day and at the

  initiative of Charles Almanzo Babcock, Superintendent of Schools in Oil City,

  Pennsylvania. By 1910, Bird Day is observed widely, often in conjunction with

  Arbor Day; together, Bird Day and Arbor Day provide an important opportunity

  for formal conservation training and reflection in the nation's schools.

  John Muir publishes his first book, The Mountains of California; it eventually

  sells some ten thousand copies.

  1896

  In an appropriations bill for the Department of Agriculture, Congress

  establishes the Division of Biological Survey within the Department; it

  succeeds the Division of Economic Ornithology and Mammalogy, and is renamed

  the Bureau of Biological Survey in 1905.

  The Massachusetts Audubon Society is founded at the instigation of Boston

  society matron Harriet Lawrence Hemenway, launching the permanent Audubon

  movement in the United States and providing a grass-roots model outlet for

  activity by the increasing numbers of Americans concerned with birds and bird

  protection; by the end of the following year, there are Audubon Societies in

  ten states and the District of Columbia.

  The American Academy of Sciences establishes a committee on forests, chaired

  by Charles Sprague Sargent, with Gifford Pinchot as its youngest member, which

  takes a census of the nation's forests and calls for their active management.

  1897

  As part of an appropriations bill, Congress passes what is known as the Forest

  Management Act, or Organic Act, making explicit the purpose of Forest Reserves

  (later National Forests) as resources for lumbering, mining, and grazing and

  providing the blueprint for their management until the 1960s; this act also

  places Federal forest administration under the jurisdiction of the General

  Land Office, Department of the Interior.

  This year and the next, John Muir publishes two articles in the Atlantic

  Monthly, "The American Forests" (1897) and "The Wild Parks and Forest

  Reservations of the West," which reveal the shift in his thought from

  compromise to absolute opposition on the question of "use" of protected

  resources; these articles are later republished in his book Our National

  Parks, in 1901.

  A classic work of nature-writing for young people, Citizen Bird, the joint

  creation of an ornithologist (Elliott Coues), a nature-writer (Mabel Osgood

  Wright), and a wildlife artist (Louis Agassiz Fuertes), suggests the

  conjunction of science, aesthetics, and moralistic pedagogical enthusiasm

  which inspired both the surge of popular ornithology in this era and much of

  the grass-roots support for preservationist conservation measures.

  1898

  Gifford Pinchot appointed chief of the Division of Forestry in the Department

  of Agriculture; begins crusade to convert the public and forest industry to

  support for scientific forest management.

  Ernest Seton Thompson (later better known as Ernest Thompson Seton) publishes

  his best-selling Wild Animals I Have Known, the first entry in a new genre of

  anthropomorphic wild-animal stories by Thompson Seton and others; scientific

  accuracy in these works was always suspect, but their vast popularity, and

  capacity to engender fascination with and sentimental concern for American

  wildlife, was never in doubt, and Thompson Seton himself was genuinely

  concerned with the moral obligations of humans toward wildlife.

  Exemplifying the links between sport and the conservation movement, ardent

  conservationist George Oliver Shields, founder, editor and publisher of

  Recreation magazine and (from 1905) of Shields' Magazine, founds the League of

  American Sportsmen to advance the cause of conservation through members of the

  sporting public; Shields is the League's only president and guiding force, and

  it declines along with his personal fortunes after 1908.

  1899

  Frank M. Chapman founds Bird-Lore magazine as the organ of the nation's

  Audubon Societies; it becomes the leading popular journal of ornithology and

  nature study in this era, and exerts incalculable influence on the growth of

  conservation knowledge and popular support; today it continues under its later

  name, Audubon.

  Congress passes a bill establishing Mount Rainier National Park, Washington.

  The Harriman Alaska Expedition explores coastal Alaska by boat throughout the

  summer. The Expedition is undertaken by a group of distinguished citizens,

  many of whom are actively involved in conservationism, including numerous

  scientists under the direction of C. Hart Merriam (Chief, U.S. Biological

  Survey), John Muir, John Burroughs, photographer Edward Curtis, forester

  Bernhard Fernow, George Bird Grinnell, and artists Frederick Dellenbaugh and

  Louis Agassiz Fuertes, funded and accompanied by railroad magnate Edward H.

  Harriman and members of his family. The Expedition produces a remarkable

  private Album of "Chronicles and Souvenirs" that captures much of the spirit

  and outlook which animated the conservation movement in this era, while the

  major results of the Expedition's scientific and ethnological investigations

  fill fifteen volumes published between 1901 and 1914.

  1900

  Congress passes the first comprehensive Federal legislation designed to

  protect wildlife: the Lacey Act, so called in recognition of its chief

  sponsor, Rep. John F. Lacey, which outlaws the interstate shipment of any wild

  animals or birds killed in violation of state laws.

  At the urging of the California Club, a San Francisco women's organization,

  Congress passes a Joint Resolution authorizing the Secretary of the Interior

  to purchase two endangered groves of Sequoia gigantea in California; though

  the effort is not successful, it highlights the increasing private and public

  commitment to protection of the nation's natural wonders, and the role of

  women's groups in the conservation movement.

  William E. Smythe publishes The Conquest of Arid America, an ardently

  optimistic vision of the future for an irrigated West, linking democratic

  opportunity to the large-scale technological control of natural resources; at

  a time when irrigation was understood to be an integral aspect of

  conservation, this work exemplifies the mentality which created popular

  support for the Newlands Reclamation Act in 1902.

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