1908-1911

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1908-1911 |
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  1908

  The Governors' Conference on the Conservation of Natural Resources, organized

  by Gifford Pinchot and his associate "WJ" (as he preferred to style himself)

  McGee, whom Pinchot called "the scientific brains of the new [conservation]

  movement," and largely financed by Pinchot himself, is held May 13-15 at the

  White House, propelling conservation issues into the forefront of public

  consciousness and stimulating a large number of private and state-level

  conservation initiatives. The Conference's Proceedings are published in 1909.

  A second such Conference is held at the end of the year to receive the

  recommendations of the National Conservation Commission.

  The National Conservation Commission, appointed in June by President Roosevelt

  and composed of representatives of Congress and relevant executive agencies

  with Gifford Pinchot as chairman, compiles an inventory of U.S. natural

  resources and presents Pinchot's concepts of resource management as a

  comprehensive policy recommendation in a three-volume Report submitted to

  Congress at the beginning of 1909.

  An article by Robert Underwood Johnson in Century magazine, "A High Price to

  Pay for Water," helps bring the Hetch Hetchy controversy to national

  attention.

  Congress begins several years of hearings and debate on the Hetch Hetchy

  question; the transcript of a Hearing held before the Committee on the Public

  Lands of the House of Representatives, December 16, 1908 suggests the scope of

  public concerns.

  President Roosevelt issues Proclamations establishing Muir Woods National

  Monument, California, on land donated to the Federal government for that

  purpose by civic reformer and future Congressman William Kent; Grand Canyon

  National Monument, Arizona; Pinnacles National Monument, California; Jewel

  Cave National Monument, South Dakota; Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah;

  Lewis and Clark Cavern National Monument, Montana; and Wheeler National

  Monument, Colorado.

  The Land Classification Board is established within the U.S. Geological Survey

  to classify natural resources systematically so as to determine their best

  use.

  Dallas Lore Sharp publishes The Lay of the Land, a particularly fine example

  of the way in which the era's nature essayists brought the American romance

  with pastoral nature into the dooryards of the nation's burgeoning suburbs,

  sustaining an appreciation for wild things in an ever-more-urban people.

  With financial support from the Russell Sage Foundation, and reflecting

  renewed concern for the value of rural life in an increasingly urban nation,

  President Roosevelt appoints a Commission on Country Life, headed by Liberty

  Hyde Bailey and including Gifford Pinchot, to study problems of rural life and

  recommend measures to ameliorate them; the Commission's Report, published in

  1909, deals chiefly with social and economic issues, but also draws attention

  to such conservation problems as soil depletion and deforestation.

  1909

  President Roosevelt convenes the North American Conservation Conference, held

  in Washington and attended by representatives of Canada, Newfoundland, Mexico,

  and the United States.

  Outlook magazine becomes a chief organ in the national campaign to save Hetch

  Hetchy, publishing two editorials on the subject by its editor, Lyman Abbott.

  The First National Conservation Congress is convened by the Washington (State)

  Conservation Association; its Proceedings underscore the importance of private

  conservation activity, including that of women's groups, at this time, and

  highlight the energetic public response to the 1908 Governors' Conference.

  Until 1915, these Congresses serve as annual forums for discussion and debate

  among public and private conservation leaders, though they are eventually

  undermined by internal squabbling.

  Congress passes "An Act To create the Calaveras Bigtree National Forest,"

  authorizing the acquisition of lands in California to protect stands of

  Sequoia washingtoniana.

  President Roosevelt issues a Proclamation establishing Mount Olympus National

  Monument, Washington.

  President Taft issues Proclamations establishing Oregon Caves National

  Monument, Oregon, Mukuntuweap National Monument, Utah, and Shoshone Cavern

  National Monument, Wyoming.

  Under the influence of the work of the Inland Waterways Commission, Herbert

  Quick publishes American Inland Waterways: Their Relation to Railway

  Transportation and to the National Welfare; Their Creation, Restoration and

  Maintenance, a broad overview which well illustrates how policymakers in this

  era understood waterways development as an aspect of conservation.

  For the next several years, conservationists appointed by Roosevelt turn to

  the general public for support of their policies in the face of conflict with

  Congress and appointees of President Taft; as a result, conservation gains

  greater national attention, even as policy debates also increasingly involve

  those more anxious to preserve natural resources for aesthetic/spiritual

  reasons than to put them to practical use.

  1910

  Having publicly levelled charges of official impropriety against Secretary of

  the Interior Richard A. Ballinger, Gifford Pinchot is dismissed from

  government service by President Taft and turns to pressing for implementation

  of his policies through the National Conservation Association, which he had

  founded the previous year (it in turn had developed out of the Conservation

  League of America, which Pinchot had founded in 1908); Pinchot serves as the

  Association's President from 1910 until it dissolves in the 1920s (its

  official periodical, American Conservation, is published only from February to

  August of 1911, before folding for lack of subscribers).

  In this same year, Pinchot publishes The Fight for Conservation, a summary of

  his beliefs about the nature and importance of the conservation movement.

  "Conservation means the greatest good to the greatest number for the longest

  time," Pinchot writes (p. 48); "it demands the complete and orderly

  development of all our resources for the benefit of all the people, instead of

  the partial exploitation of them for the benefit of a few. It recognizes fully

  the right of the present generation to use what it needs and all it needs of

  the natural resources now available, but it recognizes equally our obligation

  so to use what we need that our descendants shall not be deprived of what they

  need" (p. 80).

  Between January and April, following a Joint Congressional Resolution, a Joint

  Committee of the Senate and the House holds hearings on the Ballinger-Pinchot

  controversy, investigating the activities of both the Department of Interior

  and the Forest Service; though dominated by politics, these

  investigations--which eventually fill some thirteen printed volumes--are also,

  in historian Samuel Hays's words, "a gold mine of information about resource

  affairs" in this era.

  In the legislation known as the Withdrawal Act, Congress authorizes the

  President to withdraw public lands from entry and reserve them for

  "water-power sites, irrigation, classification of lands, or other public

  purposes," but reaffirms its ban on the creation or enlargement of national

  forests in six Western states.

  Congress passes a bill establishing Glacier National Park, Montana.

  President Taft issues a Proclamation establishing Rainbow Bridge National

  Monument, Utah.

  In an early attempt to come to grips with the growing problem of large-scale

  urban water pollution, Congress passes "An Act To prevent the dumping of

  refuse materials in Lake Michigan at or near Chicago".

  Reflecting the surge of popular interest in conservationism in the wake of

  events such as the 1908 Governors' Conference, several books published in this

  period offer an overview of conservation issues for the general public; the

  most notable of these include Charles Richard Van Hise's authoritative

  Conservation of Natural Resources in the United States, published this year;

  Mary Huston Gregory's broader-based Checking the Waste: A Study in

  Conservation, published in 1911; Rudolf Cronau's 1908 jeremiad, Our Wasteful

  Nation: The Story of American Prodigality and the Abuse of Our National

  Resources; and Thomas Herbert Russell's Natural Resources and National Wealth

  (also 1911), which includes a chapter on irrigation by Reclamation Service

  Director F.H. Newell, and is particularly directed at businessmen.

  John Burroughs, nearing the end of his long career as the preeminent

  interpreter of nature to the American public, publishes In the Catskills:

  Selections from the Writings of John Burroughs, a volume of nature-essays

  about his home region originally published across four decades; it epitomizes

  the literary and philosophical stance which sustained his popularity for

  nearly half a century and influenced the work of a host of other

  nature-essayists in an era when Americans were redefining their relationship

  with the natural world.

  By this time, conservationists primarily interested in nature as an aesthetic,

  spiritual, or recreational resource join with sportsmen, railroads, travel

  agencies, and highway associations to begin calling for the creation of a Park

  Bureau in the Department of Interior to take charge of national parks.

  1911

  The American Game Protective and Propagation Association (usually referred to

  as the American Game Protective Association) is founded by

  sportsmen-conservationists with financial backing from gun and ammunition

  companies; it advocates conservation for the purposes of sustainable hunting,

  and reaffirms the role of sportsmen in the conservation movement.

  Congress passes the legislation known as the Weeks Act, which (among other

  provisions) authorizes interstate compacts for water and forest conservation

  and Federal acquisition of land for the purpose of protecting watersheds; it

  also places large amounts of Eastern forest land under Federal jurisdiction

  for the first time; and provides financial aid to efforts to protect

  timberlands at the heads of navigable streams from fire.

  President Taft issues Proclamations establishing Colorado National Monument,

  Colorado, and Devil Postpile National Monument, California.

  John Muir publishes My First Summer in the Sierra, a reflective memoir

  embodying his mature vision of nature's divine beauty and integrity, inviting

  modern man to redemptive re-integration in a relationship of reverent love:

  "No Sierra landscape that I have seen holds anything truly dead or dull...

  This quick, inevitable interest attaching to everything seems marvelous until

  the hand of God becomes visible; then it seems reasonable that what interests

  Him may well interest us. When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find

  it hitched to everything else in the universe. One fancies a heart like our

  own must be beating in every crystal and cell, and we feel like stopping to

  speak to the plants and animals as friendly fellow-mountaineers" (p. 211).

  The first of four important National Parks Conferences convenes at Yellowstone

  National Park to explore the need for a National Park Service (the others are

  held in 1912, 1915, and 1917); participants include officials of the Interior

  Department and Forest Service, railroad representatives, and the owners of

  park hotels and camps; the printed Proceedings of the National Park Conference

  Held at the Yellowstone National Park (1912) reveal much about the parks'

  evolving identity, public expectations about them, the pressures on them, and

  the issues and dilemmas confronting them in this formative era.

  Increasing concern for what became known as "human conservation," the impact

  of environmental factors (especially in urban areas) on human health and

  well-being, is reflected in the work of socially-concerned engineers and

  scientists such as chemist Ellen H. Richards; in this year, she publishes

  Conservation by Sanitation: Air and Water Supply; Disposal of Waste, a work

  which is particularly concerned with the management of water pollution and its

  effect on human health.

  Former President Roosevelt's leadership in efforts to irrigate the West is

  recognized at the dedication of the Roosevelt Dam on the Salt River in

  Arizona; the contemporary importance of projects like the Roosevelt Dam is

  later documented in film footage of the dam and its impact.