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Three Cheers for the Red, White and Blue!

            With apologies to all the other fine people of all the other fine countries of the world, I’ve got to say that the United States of America is the greatest country ever.  And July proves it.  Not just the Fourth of July, when one of the great documents of freedom—the Declaration of Independence—was signed, but on lots of other July dates for lots of other reasons related to conservation and our environment.

First Duck Stamp

            Consider July 1, the birthday of the Duck Stamp.  On that date in 1934, the U.S. government initiated a tool that would become a standard for conservation worldwide.  The Duck Stamp is a federal license that waterfowl hunters need to buy every year.  The first one cost just $1, but over the intervening 85 years, the price has risen to $25.  Here’s the remarkable thing—98% of all the money raised by Duck Stamp sales go directly to conservation, funding the purchase, maintenance and improvement of National Wildlife Refuges (this efficient program is overseen by one remarkable federal employee, Suzanne Fellows).  I’d say this could only happen in America, but many countries have joined the U.S. in issuing their own versions of duck stamps (learn more about the Duck Stamp here).

            July 14 is a day when we can celebrate one of our great African-American leaders, George Washington Carver.  On that date, in 1943, the National Park Service created a National Monument to honor Carver.  Carver was born a slave during the Civil War in Missouri, and as a boy could scarcely read.  But he persevered, learning to read so well that he earned two degrees from Iowa State University.  He went on to found the agriculture program at the Tuskegee Institute and developed more than 300 products using peanuts and 100 more using sweet potatoes.  Most importantly, he spread his knowledge to the rural people of Alabama, whatever their color or creed (learn more about Carver here).

George Washington Carver at Tuskegee Institute

            On July 4 itself, we can celebrate another great U.S. innovation, the one that watches over the George Washington Carver National Monument—our system of national parks.  Stephen Mather, the Founding Director of the National Park Service, was born on July 4, 1867.  For 25 years, Mather led the new agency, expanding the number and geographic distribution of parks, but most importantly equipping them with professional staff and needed funding.  Our national parks are often called “America’s Greatest Idea”—another idea that has been replicated across the globe (learn more about Mather here).

             I’ll close this patriotic listing by noting the July birthday of a person who illustrates another feature of the American spirit.  She is Maria Martin, born on July 6, 1796.  I doubt if you’ve ever heard of her.  You’ve heard a lot about her colleague—one John James Audubon—but Martin isn’t remembered much today.  Yet she was one of America’s great early naturalists and illustrators, painting backgrounds for Audubon’s birds and assembling her own works on insects, flowers, and reptiles.  She is a great example of the love of nature that resides in so many Americans, leading them to volunteer their “time, talent and treasure” to conserve and sustain our environment, whether they get noticed or no (learn more about Mather here).

Maria Martin, early naturalist and illustrator

            This calendar celebrates only a few of the innumerable Americans who have committed to making our world a better place.  The great progress that we have made in sustaining our earth, especially over the last century, shows what we can do when we all do our part, working in our common interest.  In little ways and big ways.  With our hands and with our hearts.  Women do it, African-Americans do it, Muslims do it, we all do it. Sustainability isn’t about politics, about us versus them, about winners and losers.  It is about doing what is right, for people everywhere and especially those who haven’t been born yet.  And, doggone it, we do it great!  Three cheers for the UNITED States of America!

Let’s Learn About The United Nations

When we think about the United Nations, most of us probably imagine its iconic headquarters on Manhattan Island—a plain rectangular skyscraper accompanied by a lower sloping building.  That is an important part of the UN, where the General Assembly and the Security Council meet to address the political missions of the organization.  The UN was created on June 26, 1945, as the Second World War was ending (learn more here).  Its two primary goals, as President Truman stated then, are “to improve the conditions under which [people] live,” and “to fulfill their profound longing for peace.”

UN headquarters in Manhattan (photo by Larry Nielsen)

            What we may miss, however, is the important role that the UN plays in environmental matters.  One of the most consequential actions by the UN was ratifying the Millennium Declaration in 2000, which committed the world’s nations to work together to create a sustainable global environment (learn more here).  The UN also highlights the world’s biggest issues by declaring “international days” designed to  focus attention on specific topics.   Many relate to the environment and are featured in this calendar.  Three occur this month: World Environment Day on June 5 (learn more here), World Day to Combat Desertification on June 17 (learn more here), and World Hydrography Day on June 21 (learn more here)/.

            Along with the famous headquarters in Manhattan, the UN includes a large number of other organizations and programmes (the UN spell “programmes” the British way).  Those groups are largely independent of the political UN, with separate missions and memberships.  And several of them lead our global efforts to sustain the environment for future generations. 

            The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) was chartered in 1948, on October 16.  That date is now celebrated annually as World Food Day.  FAO’s primary mission is to eliminate hunger in the world.  Included in that mission is the goal of making the world’s forests and fisheries sustainable (learn more here).

            UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, protects historical, cultural and natural sites around the world.  Each year, UNESCO reviews its “World Heritage List,” adding sites as appropriate (learn more here).  At their 2013 meeting, for example, which occurred on June 27, the organization added five new natural sites, one each in Italy, China, Tajikistan, Namibia and Mexico (learn more here).

            The most environmentally oriented UN leader in recent times has been Ban Ki-Moon, who served as UN Director-General from 2007 to 2016 (learn more about him here).  He expressed the fundamental truth that we must work together and broadly to achieve a just and sustainable world:  “Saving our planet, lifting our people out of poverty, advancing economic growth …these are one and the same fight.  We must connect the dots between climate change, water scarcity, energy shortages, global health, food security and women’s empowerment.  Solutions to one problem must be solutions for all.”

Badlands National Park Established (1939)

Native Americans called the place the “bad lands” because traveling through the landscape was so difficult.  The name stuck as ranchers, farmers and other settlers attempted to carve a living from the land.  Perhaps the best use of the region was settled when it was declared a national monument on January 25, 1939, by President Franklin Roosevelt.

The badlands region of southwestern South Dakota served as home to several Native American groups for as long as 11,000 years.  Their descendants were the Lakota Indians that still live in the region.  Most Native American lands were appropriated by the federal government for granting to homesteaders in the late 1800s.  Conflicts began, including the famous battle at Wounded Knee (which is not in the park itself, but about 45 miles south).

Badlands National Park, 2000 (photo by Patrick Bolduan)

After the turn of the century, homesteading began in earnest.  Changes in federal law expanded the size of a homestead from the traditional 160 acres to 640 acres, acknowledging the inability of a small tract to support a family.  Life was hard, with dry summers, brutally cold winters and strong winds at all times.  During the Dust Bowl years, farming became so difficult that most families abandoned their lands or sold them back to the federal government.

During this time, the idea of preserving the lands gained attention.  In various stages, plans for a national park or monument were developed and passed.  The creation of a park was pushed most vigorously by South Dakota Senator Peter Norbeck, also known for his commitment to wildlife and waterfowl in particular.  The Badlands National Monument was officially created by the proclamation of President Roosevelt on January 25, 1939 (later, in 1978, the monument was reclassified as Badlands National Park).

The park covers approximately 240,000 acres of highly eroded hills surrounded by a mixed-grass prairie ecosystem.  The area was covered by an ancient sea that disappeared gradually, depositing sediments until about 28 million years ago.  Because of this history, Badlands contains exceptional fossil beds, serving as the nation’s most productive site for mammalian fossils from the Oligocene.

The early arguments over whether Badlands should be a national park or monument revolved around access for recreational visitors—it was a hard place to get to.  Today, however, it has become a popular site.  From a low of about 10,000 annual visitors during World War II, annual visitation is now around 1 million.

Black-footed ferret (photo by US Fish and Wildlife Service, Mountain-Prairie Region)

The park is notable for a fauna that is well adapted to life in such harsh conditions.  Although both American bison and pronghorn antelope were extirpated, they have been reintroduced and are thriving.  Of particular interest is the endangered black-footed ferret, which has suffered because of habitat loss, declines in their prey (especially prairie dogs), and disease.  Populations have been re-introduced into Badlands National Park as part of the recovery plan that is based entirely on captive breeding and establishment of carefully protected populations.

References:

Mattison, Ray H. and Robert A. Grom.  1968.   History of Badlands National Monument.  Badlands Natural History Association.  Available at:  https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/badl/index.htm.  Accessed January 24, 2018.

National Park Service.  Badlands.  Available at:  https://www.nps.gov/badl/learn/nature/mammals.htm.  Accessed January 24, 2018.

US-Parks.com.  Badlands National Park History.  Available at:  http://www.us-parks.com/badlands-national-park/history.html.  Accessed January 24, 2018.

British Museum Opened (1795)

A 1937 George Gershwin hit song starts this way:  “A foggy day in London town, had me low, had me down; I viewed the morning with alarm, the British Museum had lost its charm.”  Perhaps the museum lost its charm for Gershwin, but the rest of the world remains enchanted.  The museum opened to the public on January 15, 1759 and amazes nearly 7 million people every year.

The British Museum was the first national museum in the world.  It was founded in 1753, when the will of Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753), a successful London doctor, bequeathed his collection to the British people (in exchange, actually for 20,000 British pounds).  He had begun collecting while traveling as the personal physician to the governor of Jamaica.  His main interest was natural history, and he brought back 800 species of plants and animals, many alive, from that voyage.

Bust of Sir Hans Sloane, British Museum

He never stopped collecting.  He also acquired collections of others, accumulating more than 71,000 objects, mostly natural history, during his life (the Enlightenment Gallery at the museum represents the way an 18th Century museum looked, with an overwhelming preponderance of natural specimens displayed as objects of curiosity).  His library exceeded 50,000 volumes.  His collections filled up his house in the Bloomsbury district of London, across the street from the current site of the library, and then the house next door.  He eventually had to move to the Chelsea district to find a home with sufficient space (his home was on the square that now bears his name).

Display of mollusk shells, British Museum

From the beginning, the museum was free and open to the public, a service to “all studious and curious Persons.” Its doors have remained open since then, except during the two world wars in the 20th Century. About 5,000 people visited the museum in 1759; nearly 7 million now visit each year, making it the most popular attraction in the United Kingdom.

But that tells just part of the story.  As the museum became more and more popular in the late 1800s, and as the collections continued to grow and diversify, the facilities became overly crowded.  Consequently, a new building was constructed in the South Kensington district of London to house the natural history collections.  That building opened in the 1880s, splitting the attendance between the sites.  Now run as the independent Natural History Museum (read more), it attracted about 4.6 million visits in 2016.   The British Library, which was part of the museum until 1973, also attracts more than 1 million visitors annually.  In all, then, nearly 13 million people visit the British Museum and its offspring every year.

The British Museum itself is now primarily a cultural and archeological museum, known for outstanding exhibits including the Rosetta Stone and the Parthenon friezes.  But its role as the conservator of the natural history of the world during the age of exploration helped shape our understanding of natural selection, evolution, biodiversity, ecology and conservation.  It will never lose its charm.

References:

British Museum.  The Museum’s story—General History.  Available at:  http://www.britishmuseum.org/about_us/the_museums_story/general_history/sir_hans_sloane.aspx.  Accessed January 15, 2018

National Trust of England Established (1895)

The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty was incorporated on January 12, 1895.  It has become the largest and most influential preservation organization in England, in a sense the British equivalent of the U.S. National Park Service.  According to the Trust’s 2015-2016 annual report, the trust protects 775 miles of coastline, 248,000 hectares of land (1.5% of the entire land surface of England), more than 500 properties (structures and nature preserves), and nearly 1 million catalogued historical artifacts.  The Trust’s properties hosted more than 22 million visits during the year.

The National Trust owes its existence to the efforts of Octavia Hill, a pioneering social reformer of the late Nineteenth Century.  Hill came from a family of advocates for the poor, and she followed in their footsteps.  On behalf of fellow reformer John Ruskin, she managed a set of broken-down tenements in what is now the Marylebone section of London, where she rented to poor women and also provided them with job training, actual jobs and cultural exposure.  By the 1870s, she housed and watched over the social development of 3,000 tenants.

But she also realized that the poor needed parks and open spaces.  Actually, she understood that everyone needed such spaces, and that they were fast disappearing as London developed.  She reasoned that “a few acres where the hill top enables the Londoner to rise above the smoke, to feel a refreshing air for a little time and to see the sun setting in coloured glory which abounds so in the Earth God made” was a tonic for the harried life of the salesperson as well as the foundry or textile worker.  And she particularly abhorred the reality that city parks were becoming increasingly gated, available only to those who could afford to live around their perimeters.  One of her first projects was to stop a portion of Hampstead Heath, the renowned London park, from being developed.

Ken Wood, an area of Special Scientific Interest in Hampstead Heath, London (photo by Dudley Miles)

So, together with colleagues Sir Robert Hunter and Hardwicke Rawnsley, she organized the National Trust as a public charity.  The trust’s purpose was to “promote the permanent preservation for the benefit of the Nation of lands and tenements (including buildings) of beauty or historic interest.”  Anyone who has visited a park or country estate in England owes much to the passion and persistence of Olivia Hill.

References:

National Trust.  2016.  National Trust annual report 2015/2016.  Available at:  http://www.nationaltrustannualreport.org.uk/. Accessed January 11, 2017.

YMCA George Williams College.  Octavia Hill, housing and social reform.  Available at:  http://infed.org/mobi/octavia-hill-housing-and-social-reform/.  Accessed January 11, 2017.

Aldo Leopold Born (1887)

Rand Aldo Leopold was born on January 11, 1887.  Before the end of his much-too-short life (he died at 61, in 1948), he would write the book, A Sand County Almanac, that has become the philosophical bible for conservationists.

Leopold was a child of the field and forest.  He and his brother accompanied their father into the woods as often as possible, first to observe nature and later to hunt its products for the table.  But he was equally at home in the library or music room, learning the ways of books and ideas from his mother.  The combination served him well as he grew to be known as the father of wildlife management.

Aldo Leopold in 1946 (photo by Howard Zahniser)

He trained as a forester and took his first professional job with the U.S. Forest Service in New Mexico.  He led timber surveying crews, measuring the forest for its production of wood.  He loved the grandeur of the environment, as well as the grandeur of the task—toting up billions of board-feet of lumber available for utilization.  Like all foresters in the early decades of the 29th Century, he believed that forests were for logging—a utilitarian approach to nature.

But when a serious illness required that he give up the physically challenging job of a field forester, his outlook began to expand and mature.  With a supervisory job in the Forest Service’s regional office in Albuquerque, he had the opportunity to visit many national forests and see the damage that uncontrolled grazing and logging inflicted on the environment.  Soils eroded, productivity declined, wildlife disappeared.  What was needed was a new profession, one that combined the laws of nature with the needs of people.

He eventually took a promotion to the Forest Service’s Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin.  The job didn’t suit him, however, and after a few years, at the brink of the Great Depression, he resigned from the government to do something else.  But what to do?  He had lots of ideas, but no one to pay him for them.

After a period of unemployment, he secured a temporary job.  He was hired by a sporting organization to survey the status of wildlife populations around the country, report on the conditions and make recommendations for improvement.  Within a short time, the task was narrowed to a survey of just the Midwestern states.  In two years, he visited hundreds of field locations and talked to even more landowners, hunters and government officials.  His final report, published in 1931, became the first comprehensive assessment of the deplorable state of wildlife populations.  It established Leopold as the “father of wildlife management.”

Now, Leopold knew where his future lay.  He was immediately hired by the University of Wisconsin as the nation’s first professor of wildlife—a position he held until his death.  He trained hundreds of students, oversaw the restoration of thousands of acres of degraded farm and forestland, and wrote the first wildlife textbook.

Along the way, he bought a little farm outside of Madison.  The farm had been badly abused, but together with his wife and daughters, Leopold restored it.  They converted the only building on the farm, an old chicken barn, into a barely habitable cabin.  That cabin gradually acquired the name of “The Shack,” and is now a rough-hewn mecca for conservationists the world around.

“The Shack” on the Leopold farm near Madison, WI (photo by Wonder al)

As Leopold restored the land, he wrote essays about the experience, chronicling the events on a month-by-month basis.  He also wrote essays about his earlier years in the West and an evolving perspective on how to manage the earth sustainably.  After years of writing and rewriting and rejections by publishers, he finally secured a contract for the publication of A Sand County Almanac.

Regrettably, he did not live to see the book printed.  While helping fight a grass fire at a neighboring farm in 1948, he suffered a fatal heart attack at the age of 61.

But his family carried through on the editing process, and A Sand County Almanac was published posthumously the next year.  Although it wasn’t a popular book at the time, its re-issue as a paperback in 1970 made it the popular treatise we know today.  Without doubt, A Sand County Almanac is the most widely read environmental narrative of all time.

References:

Nielsen, Larry A.  2017.  Nature’s Allies.  Island Press, Washington DC.

President Carter Delivers Environmental Message to Congress (1977)

Which American presidents did the most for the environment?  The gold goes to Teddy Roosevelt and the silver—remarkably—to Richard Nixon.  But the bronze medal for environmental presidents should go to the 39th President of the United States, Jimmy Carter.

Jimmy Carter, 39th president of the United States (photo by Marion S. Trikosko)

            James Early Carter Jr. was inaugurated as the U.S. President on January 20, 1977.  Just four months later, on May 23, he addressed the Congress with a major policy agenda on the environment.  Following the flurry of legislative activity during the late 1960s and early 1970s, Carter committed the executive branch to join the effort:

“Intelligent stewardship of the environment on behalf of all Americans is a prime responsibility of government. Congress has in the past carried out its share of this duty well–so well, in fact, that the primary need today is not for new comprehensive statutes but for sensitive administration and energetic enforcement of the ones we have. Environmental protection is no longer just a legislative job, but one that requires–and will now receive-firm and unsparing support from the Executive Branch.”

In his address, Carter outlined a seven-point agenda for his administration.  He spoke to the need to control pollution and protect health; assure environmentally sound energy development; improve the urban environment; protect natural resources; preserve natural heritage (including wildlife); address the global environment; and improve implementation of environmental laws.  The address is stunning in its detail, for example, listing 1303 miles of river to be added to the Wild and Scenic Rivers System and proposing an additional 20 for study. 

            Carter came to his environmental mission honestly.  He grew up in Plains, Georgia, in a rural Baptist family that taught the Bible message of stewardship of the earth.  As a farmer, he learned to understand that if you helped nature, nature helped you.  He went off to the Naval Academy and became a nuclear engineer.  During his active duty working on atomic submarines, Carter was sent to Canada to help when a nuclear power plant on the Chalk River near Ottawa had an accidental partial meltdown.  He realized then how close modern society could come to nuclear disaster, a lesson that stayed with him in his approach to energy security—and nuclear weapons—as president.

President Carter speaks at the installation of solar panels on the White House roof (photo by White House Museum)

            By the end of his presidency, Carter had accomplished much of his agenda.  He grew the EPA budget, despite a weak economy, and aggressively dealt with the Love Canal and Three Mile Island disasters.  Carter combined a group of energy programs into the Department of Energy, and he established the first gas mileage standards for vehicles.  In the closing months of his presidency, he worked with the lame-duck congress to pass and sign several important laws, including establishment of the Superfund idea, which has helped restore nearly 400 of the nation’s most toxic locations.  He also signed the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, which provided 157 million acres of Alaskan lands protection as national parks and monuments, wildlife refuges and national forests.

            Carter believed in renewable energy.  His environmental message to congress, he said:

 “The transition to renewable energy sources, particularly solar energy, must be made. But it will take time. Meanwhile we should satisfy our energy needs from existing sources, both fossil and nuclear, in a safe and environmentally acceptable way….. The decisions we make about energy in the next few years will influence the environment of our country for generations.”

To walk the talk, he installed solar panels on the roof of the White House. He turned down the thermostats in the building and told his staff to wear sweaters.  In the midst of the energy crisis, he turned off the Christmas lights on the White House grounds.

            Carter’s legacy as an environmental president is enormous, and even the ideas that he started and were abandoned later have come back strongly.  For examples, almost as soon as Reagan moved into the White House, he had the solar panels taken down.  They are back now, the work of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and solar energy today across the country produces as much electricity as would 50 nuclear power plants.

References:

Carter, Jimmy.  1977.  The Environmental Message to the Congress, Ma 23, 1977.  The American Presidency Project.  Available at:  http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=7561.  Accessed May 22, 2018.

Milnes, Arthur.  2011.  Jimmy Carter’s exposure to nuclear danger.  CNN, April 5, 2011.  Available at:  http://www.cnn.com/2011/OPINION/04/05/milnes.carter.nuclear/index.html.  Accessed May 22, 2018. 

Peak, Chris.  2015.  Which presidents are the greenest in U.S. history?  Nation Swell, September 16, 2015.  Available at:  http://nationswell.com/greenest-u-s-presidents/.  Accessed May 22, 2018.

The Birthdays of Modern Conservation

We often like to point to particular dates and times for when something began.  The Boston Tea Party started the American revolution.  Abner Doubleday nailed a peach basket to the wall and created basketball. 

President Teddy Roosevelt

            The same is true for the environment.  We often identify two environmental movements in recent times, one near the start of the 20th Century, and the other beginning in the 1960s.  And the events that we associate with the start of each find their origins in May.

Rachel Carson (photo by Smithsonian Institution)

            Teddy Roosevelt gets credit for starting the first environmental movement.  He cared deeply about the condition of our natural resources.  So much so that he gathered all the nation’s leaders—Congress, the Supreme Court, all state governors, and many others—in Washington for the “Governor’s Conference on Conservation.”  The event occurred on May 15, 1908 (learn about it here).

            Rachel Carson gets credit for starting the second environmental movement.  Carson was born on May 27, 1907—so she was getting ready to celebrate her first birthday when Teddy Roosevelt’s conservation congress took place (learn about her here).  Rachel Carson started the environmental movement by publishing her book, Silent Spring, in 1962 (learn about the book here)

Golden Spike National Historical Park Created (1965)

I’m sure you think the date of 1965 is a typo.  Surely the site where two railroads met to create a transcontinental route, on May 10, 1869, didn’t wait nearly a century before being made into a park.  It is not a typo.

“The Wedding of the Railroads” at Promontory Summit, Utah, on May 10, 1869 (photo by Andrew J. Russell)

            The Golden Spike was the last stake driven into a railroad tie linking the United States from East to West with a fast, comfortable and safe transportation system (at least in mid-19th Century terms).  Instead of taking months to cross the continent, now the trip took a week.  The Central Pacific Railroad built eastward from Sacramento, while the Union Pacific Railroad built westward from Council Bluffs, Iowa.  The two lines met at Promontory Summit, not far from present day Ogden, Utah.  Leland Stanford, President of the Central Pacific, drove the spike into the ground at 2:47 PM on May 10, 1869.  An inscription on the spike read, “May God continue the unity of our Country as this Railroad unites the two great Oceans of the world.”  The unity of the country referred to healing the wounds from the Civil War.

            The golden spike was replaced by an iron spike, the railroad began operating, and the place was forgotten—especially after a 1903 bypass made that section of track obsolete.  The tracks were dug up and recycled during World War II, and ranchers reused the ties. One woman, Bernice Gibbs Anderson, however, did not forget.  A poet, historian and newspaper journalist, Anderson argued for decades that the spot deserved more than a single lonely stone pillar.  Eventually, a private park was established, and, on July 30, 1965, the federal government took over, declaring it a national historical site (later renamed as a “park”).  The National Park Service has re-built a section of track, and two replicas steam engines meet there, reprising the famous photo of 1869.  More than 100,000 visitors trek to the location annually.

Re-enactment of the driving of the golden spike (photo by Brian W. Schaller)

            The park is wonderful, but the event is the real big deal.  When the railroads met, the North American frontier closed.  Horace Greeley’s admonition to “go West, young man,” didn’t work any longer—because people from the West were coming East to greet you.  No longer did an unknown, unexplored, unexploited wilderness lie beyond the sunset.  Now the West was no longer inexhaustible, but it had limits.

            In a way, the driving of the Golden Spike could be called the beginning of conservation in the United States.  People began to take notice of the condition of natural resources.  The U.S. Fisheries Commission formed in 1871, to look into the decline of commercial fisheries.  Yosemite was made a state park in 1864, and the first national park was created at Yellowstone in 1872..  The ideas of evolution took hold (remember, Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1859), a first step in the foundation of ecological science.  John Muir roamed around California, noting the over-exploitation of the landscape.  In Europe, similar rumblings were beginning in fisheries, forestry and land use.

            The driving of the Golden Spike, therefore, meant two different things.  First, this symbolized the end of the trail for a frontier that seemed endless in expanse and natural resources.  But second is the beginning of the trail leading to conservation.  And, as Bernice Gibbs Anderson expressed in her poem, Lure, the second is more interesting:  “The end of the trail, its mystery gone, is featured so often in story and song; But as long as the lure of the unknown will be, it’s the beginnings of trails that appeal to me.”

References:

Barry, Keith.  2012.  May 10, 1869:  Golden Spike Links Nation by Rail.  Wired, October 10, 2012.  Available at:  https://www.wired.com/2010/05/0510transcontinental-railroad-completed/. Accessed April 7, 2020.

Klein, Maury.  2012.  The significance of Golden Spike Day.  Oxford University Blog, May 10, 2012.  Available at:  https://blog.oup.com/2012/05/the-significance-of-golden-spike-day/. Accessed April 7, 2020.

National Park Service.  Bernice Gibbs Anderson, Mother of the Golden Spike.  Available at:  https://www.nps.gov/gosp/learn/historyculture/bernice-gibbs-anderson.htm. Accessed April 7, 2020.

National Park Service.  The Last Spike:  History at a Glance.  Available at:  https://www.nps.gov/gosp/learn/historyculture/the-last-spike-history-at-a-glance.htm.  Accessed April 7, 2020.

Curt Gowdy, Sportscaster and Conservationist, Born (1919)

Curt Gowdy, renowned sports broadcaster and host of the outdoor show, The American Sportsman, was born on July 31, 1919 (died 2006).  In the age before specialization in sports reporting, Gowdy sat behind the microphone for professional baseball, football and basketball games and championships, along with many college contests.

Curt Gowdy

            Gowdy, however, was first and foremost an outdoorsman.  He grew up in rural Wyoming, son of the man he called the best fly-fisherman in the state.  “We had free access to primetime fishing and hunting.  The outdoors was a way of life for me.”

            He developed the idea for and hosted the long-running television sports show, ABC’s Wide World of Sports, that showcased a variety of sports during its Saturday afternoon airing.  In 1964, Gowdy filmed a segment for the show of him and famous fisherman Joe Brooks angling for brook trout in the Argentine mountains.  The segment was a hit, and almost immediately ABC created a new show built around outdoor recreation—The American Sportsman, hosted by Curt Gowdy.

            The show ran for twenty years, airing more than 200 episodes during the winter months on Sunday afternoons.  It is the most successful outdoor recreation show of all time, earning a creel full of industry awards, including four Emmys.  The show focused on fishing and hunting experiences involving Curt Gowdy and celebrities from entertainment, politics and sports.  As Gowdy remembered, people often stopped him on the street to tell him that he “started me fishing or hunting when I was a boy.”  For millions of Americans, The American Sportsman was their window on the natural world.

Curt Gowdy State Park, Wyoming (photo by Mark Brennan(

            Gowdy, who was called “The Cowboy” by his colleagues, was a committed conservationist. He is a member of the Conservation Hall of Fame International.  He served on the boards of directors for Trout Unlimited and the International Game Fish Association.  Convinced that the popularity of fishing was too great to sustain fish populations, he advocated for catch-and-release fishing that kept captured fish alive.

            To honor his work and memory, the State of Wyoming established the Curt Gowdy State Park in 1972.  The 11,000-acre park lies above 6450 feet in elevation.  Gowdy loved it, saying “It has two beautiful lakes, hiking trails, camping boating, fishing and beauty.  It has everything I love.  What greater honor can a man receive?”

References:

FamPeople.com.  Curt Gowdy:  biography.  Available at:  http://www.fampeople.com/cat-curt-gowdy_4.  Accessed July 31, 2017.

Michigan Sportsman.  2006.  Farewell to an American Sportsman.  Available at:  https://www.michigan-sportsman.com/forum/threads/farewell-to-an-american-sportsman.128923/page-2#post-1087518.  Accessed July 31, 2017.

Moran, Ken.  2002.  At 80, Gowdy Still The American Sportsman.  New York Post, February 3, 2002.  Available at:  http://nypost.com/2002/02/03/at-80-gowdy-still-the-american-sportsman/.  Accessed July 31, 2017.

This Month in Conservation

July 1
Duck Stamp Born (1934)
July 2
Morrill Act Created Land-Grant Universities (1862)
July 3
Great Auk Went Extinct (1844)
July 4
Stephen Mather, Founding Director of the National Park Service, Born (1867)
July 5
Yoshimaro Yamashina and Ernst Mayr, Ornithologists, Born (1900, 1904)
July 6
Maria Martin, Naturalist and Artist, Born (1796)
July 7
Alaska Admitted as a State (1958)
July 8
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July 9
Starbucks Abandoned Plastic Straws (2018)
July 10
Rainbow Warrior Bombed and sunk (1985)
July 11
World Population Day
July 12
Herbert Zim, Creator of “Golden Guides,” Born (1909)
July 13
Source of the Mississippi River Discovered (1832)
July 14
George Washington Carver National Monument Established (1943)
July 15
Emmeline Pankhurst, British Suffragette Leader, Born (1858)
July 16
UNESCO Added Giant Panda and Shark Sanctuaries to World Heritage List (2006)
July 17
Handel’s “Water Music” Premiered (1717)
July 18
Gilbert White, the “First Ecologist,” Born (1720)
July 19
Sagarmatha National Park, Nepal, Created (1976)
July 20
Gregor Mendel, Pioneering Geneticist, Born (1822)
July 21
Aswan High Dam Opened (1970)
July 22
Ratcatcher’s Day
July 23
Commercial Whaling Banned (1982)
July 24
Machu Picchu Discovered (1911)
July 25
Jim Corbett, Tiger Conservationist, Born (1875)
July 26
James Lovelock, Originator of the Gaia Theory, Born (1919)
July 27
Przewalski’s horse gave birth by artificial insemination (2013)
July 28
Beatrix Potter, Author and Conservationist, Born (1866)
July 29
International Tiger Day
July 30
Golden Spike National Historical Park Created (1965)
July 31
Curt Gowdy, Sportscaster and Conservationist, Born (1919)
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