Blog

Judge Boldt Affirms Native American Fishing Rights (1974)

The world of fisheries changed forever on February 12, 1974.  On that day, federal judge George Hugo Boldt issued his decision that Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest owned half the salmon in the rivers.  But that was only half the story.

Native Americans have fished for salmon species in the Pacific Northwest throughout their existence.  The runs of salmon from the ocean up the streams and rivers  provided the sustenance that kept Native American well fed year round and later provided a crop that could be sold.  Sites and methods for fishing and traditions surrounding the fishing were handed down from generation to generation.

William We-ah-lup smoking salmon, 1906 (photo by Norman Edson)

When the United States began to colonize the region, the government decided that treaties were needed that made the theft of Indian lands legal.  On Christmas Day, 1853, the new governor of the Washington Territory, Isaac Stevens, signed his first treaty with three Indian groups.  The Indians ceded most of their land, but they retained one very important right:  “The right of taking fish, at all usual and accustomed grounds and stations….”

For the next century, that treaty right was not a problem.  Indians fished where, when and how they wished; the rest of the community, both commercial and recreational fishermen, did the same.  But after WW2, salmon stocks began to suffer.  With large dams that blocked spawning grounds, heavy logging that warmed the water and clogged streams with sediment, and greatly expanded recreational and commercial fishing, the entire fishery was in trouble.  Someone needed to be blamed—and Native American fishing became the target.

The State of Washington began harassing Indian fishermen, under the premise that they had to follow the state’s fishing regulations, just like everyone else.  Native American fishermen began to protest, including Billy Frank Jr.  He became a central figure in the fight to assert the Indian treaty rights.  He was arrested first when he was 14 and then more than 50 times for doing what he claimed was his legal right.

Clashes between conversation officers and Indians grew, increasingly attracting outside attention in the civil disobedience era of the late 1960s.  At one encounter in September, 1970, violence erupted, shots were fired and a bridge was burned.  A federal attorney witnessed the event and decided he had seen enough.  He sued the state of Washington for abridging the rights of the Native Americans.

Judge George Hugo Boldt was assigned the case.  The deliberations lasted until February 12, 1974, when Boldt issued his ruling.  Yes, he said, the Native Americans had a right to fish where, when and how they wished.  No, they didn’t own the 5% of the total catch they were taking at the time; they owned 50% of the catch.  And—most importantly for the future of fisheries management—they shared co-equal responsibility and authority for managing the anadromous fish populations of the Pacific Northwest.

Judge George Hugo Boldt

The State of Washington and its supporters went ballistic.  They burned Judge Boldt in effigy.  They refused to back off their enforcement.  They counter-sued, raising the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court affirmed Boldt’s decision in its entirety, and the state finally accepted that this was their new reality.

The affirmation of fishing rights and the assignment of half the catch to Native Americans are both important, but the other half of the decision—that Native Americans and the states had co-management responsibility—is what changed fisheries management.  Now, the two groups needed to decide together, transparently, how to manage the fish populations.  To do that, they needed to know a lot more about the fish—how many were present, how abundance varied annually, how many could be harvested sustainably.  The age of intensive study of population dynamics began.  Today, because of the Boldt Decision, the Pacific Northwest salmon fisheries are the most studied and monitored in the world.  What they have learned is the basis for most fisheries management theory and practice since.

As a consequence, salmon stocks are recovering and the fisheries continue to serve the needs of Native American fishermen and communities, commercial fisheries and recreational angler.  They even leave a few for the bears!

References:

Crowley, Wald and David Wilma.  2003.  Federal Judge George Boldt issues historic ruling affirming Native American treaty fishing rights on February 12, 1974.  HistoryLink.org Essay 5282.  Available at:  http://www.historylink.org/File/5282.  Accessed February 7, 2018.

Nielsen, Larry A.  2017.  Nature’s Allies—8 Conservationists Who Changed Our World.  Island Press, Washington, DC.  252 pages.

Tizon, Alex.  1999.  The Boldt Decision at 25 – The Fish Tale That Changed History.  The Seattle Times, February 7, 1999.  Available at:  http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19990207&slug=2943039.

International Day of Women and Girls in Science

We work incessantly to make the world a better place through conservation and environmental sustainability.  We preserve habitat, save individual animals and plants, and put up nesting structures for birds and bats.  We fight against pollution.  We help the underrepresented throughout the world get to a better life.

And we all know that the number one, absolute best strategy for effecting long-term change in the way the world works is a simple, fundamental idea:  Create equity and parity for girls and women in all parts of society.  Today’s message, therefore, addresses that simple, fundamental idea on the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, declared as February 11 by the United Nations.

In 2015, the United Nations created the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, asserting, among others, that the following are true:

  • “representing half of the world’s population, [women] continue to be excluded from participating fully in the economy…”
  • “women have a vital role to play in achieving sustainable development…”
  • “gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls will make a crucial contribution to progress across all the Goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development…”
  • “women and girls play a critical role in science and technology communities and that their participation should be strengthened…”

Some may argue that we are finished with this concern, that women and girls have achieved equality and parity in all aspects of society.  And certainly, the world has made great progress.  Under the Millennium Development goals that ran from 2000-2015, the proportion of girls in school in developing countries has nearly reached parity, and a higher percentage of children are attending school every year.

But this is a journey, not a destination.  The sciences—including conservation and environmental sciences—continue to lag behind.  The UN cites a study of women in science in 14 countries.  It shows that the probably of women graduating with a Bachelor’s, Master’s or doctoral degree in a science field are 18%, 8% and 2%, respectively.  The percentages for men are 37%, 18% and 6%.

Please support efforts to engage girls and women in the fields of conservation and environmental sciences and studies of all kinds.

References:

United Nations.  International Day of Women and Girls in Science.  Available at:  http://www.un.org/en/events/women-and-girls-in-science-day/.  Accessed February 7, 2018.

United Nations.  2015.  Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 22 December 2015.  Available at:  http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/70/212.  Accessed February 7, 2018.

Frances Moore Lappe, author of Diet for a Small Planet, born (1944)

Francis Moore Lappe was born on February 10, 1944.  She is most well known for her 1971 book, Diet for a Small Planet, that has sold more than three million copies.  The book argues that malnutrition is not a problem of food scarcity, but of bad food policy.  She contends that a meat diet is bad for people and for the planet—arguing instead for “environmental vegetarianism” that lowers the impact of agriculture on the earth’s soil and water resources and provides more food for more people.

Lappe describes herself as a child of the 1960s’ social justice advocacy.  She initially worked as a housing inspector in Philadelphia.  The problems she saw there led her to form an organization that worked for fair practices for poor individuals and communities.  Later, as a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, she hit on the idea that by addressing the realities of food—a fundamental problem that always attracted attention—she could get at the underlying issues preventing a fair and prosperous world for all.

Frances Moore Lappe (photo by Small Planet Institute)

The success of Diet for a Small Planet astounded her.  “I had never published anything,” she said, “not even a letter to the editor.  I made a D on my first English paper in college, so I did not think I was material for a major publisher in New York.”  The book’s combination of addressing big-picture policy issues and recipes that any person could make to improve their health and reduce their ecological footprint embodied the idea of “think globally, act locally,” and resonated with a broad population.

From there, Lappe went on to publish several other books focused on food, but gradually expanding in scope to address ever larger issues of sustainability and democracy.  She founded several organizations aimed at getting more information to the public about food, nutrition, environment and democracy.  A popular catch-phrase has become:  “Hunger is not caused by scarcity of food but scarcity of democracy.”

Today, Lappe has moved away from her direct efforts to reduce hunger and enhance sustainability to focus her attention completely on advancing democracy.  She takes her 18 honorary doctorates and long list of awards—including the 2013 “Feisty Woman Award” of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom—into that endeavor.

 

References:

Kelly, Kathy.  2016.  Interview transcript:  France Moore Lappe on why she’s Reinventing Herself.  Bill Moyers & Company, November 11, 2016.  Available at:  http://billmoyers.com/story/diet-democracy-frances-moore-lappe-re-inventing/.  Accessed February 9, 2017.

Small Planet Institute.  Frances Moore Lappe.  Available at:  http://smallplanet.org/about/frances/bio.  Accessed February 9, 2017.

U.S. Fish Commission Created (1871)

Commercial fishermen first raised the alarm:  The oceans were being overfished.  They knew it long before anyone else, because they were experiencing smaller catches from each haul of their nets, needed to travel to deeper and more dangerous waters to fill their holds, and caught smaller fish every year.

It took many years and much debate for science and government to agree with the fishermen.  Around 1850, government commissions began to look into the claims of fishermen. Some of the most learned men of the time, including Thomas Huxley, insisted the oceans were inexhaustible, based merely on their great size.  Others, using data, concluded the opposite.

The U.S. government decided to do something about it in 1871.  Congress passed and President Grant signed, on February 9 of that year, a law which created the U.S. Office of the Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries.  Its role was to “prosecute investigations on the subject (of the diminution of valuable fishes) with the view to ascertaining whether any and what diminution in the number of the food-fishes of the coast and the lakes of the United States had taken place.”  The Fish Commission, as it became known, was also to make recommendations for repairing the fisheries.

Spencer Fullerton Baird, First leader of the U.S. Fish Commission

President Grant appointed Spencer Fullerton Baird as Commissioner.  At the time, Baird’s full-time job was as the original curator of the Smithsonian Institution, which had been established in 1850 (in 1878, Baird became the second Secretary of the Smithsonian).  A well regarded naturalist, Baird took a broad approach to understanding and improving the country’s fisheries. He established headquarters at Woods Hole, Massachusetts (now one of the world’s leading centers for marine science).  He began studies of major fisheries, including striped bass, cod and bluefish.  He invested in aquaculture, which was considered a promising method for growing marine fisheries populations (it later proved not to be particularly useful).  Baird directed the agency until his death in 1887, but by then the Fish Commission and its purpose were well established.

Over the past century, the U.S. Fish Commission has seen many re-organizations.  It began as an independent agency, then became part of the new Department of Commerce and Labor in 1903, switched to the Department of Interior in 1939 and returned to Commerce in 1970.  In that year it was placed inside the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA, where it remains today) and named the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Today, NOAA Fisheries has enormous responsibilities.  It oversees regulations governing the catches of all marine fisheries, a $200 billion industry supplying 1.6 million jobs.  It implements the Endangered Species Act for 157 marine and anadromous species.  It conducts research on fisheries and marine biology through a network of 6 science centers and 20 laboratories.  Most importantly, it tracks the status of 474 stocks of fisheries organisms with the goal of assuring the sustainable yield from those stocks.

References:

Guinan, John A. and Ralph E. Curtis.  1971.  A Century of Conservation.  NOAA(12):40-44.  Available at:  https://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/history/stories/century.html.  Accessed February 6, 2018.

Nielsen, Larry A.  1976.  The Evolution of Fisheries Management Philosophy.  Marine Fisheries Review December 1976:15-23.  Available at:  http://spo.nmfs.noaa.gov/mfr3812/mfr38122.pdf.  Accessed February 6, 2018.

NOAA Fisheries.  About Us.  Available at:  https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/about-us.  Accessed February 6, 2018.

Smithsonian Institution Archives.  Spencer Fullerton Baird, 1823-1887.  Available at:  https://siarchives.si.edu/history/spencer-fullerton-baird.

President Johnson Addresses Congress about Conservation (1965)

A common question in the conservation community is this:  Who was our finest conservation president?  Teddy Roosevelt always wins and his nephew, Franklin Roosevelt, usually comes in second.  Then there are arguments about Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter, perhaps Abraham Lincoln.  But it is easy to argue that near the top of the list should come Lyndon Baines Johnson, the 36th president of the United States.

Johnson held office from 1963 to 1969, during the height of the growing environmental movement.  He understood and believed the message being delivered:  Along with prosperity, America wanted a place to live that was safe and beautiful.  He was born in a small farming community in Texas and, over his life, he watched the country change from a mostly rural, agricultural economy to a mostly urban, industrialized economy.  Along with his wife, Lady Bird, he lamented the ugliness that could accompany that change, and he vowed to help clean up the mess and preserve what was left.

President Lyndon Johnson (photo by Arnold Newman)

As president, Johnson approved more than 300 conservation measures.  The measures covered virtually all aspects of conservation, including air and water pollution, park and natural area preservation, biodiversity conservation, landscape beautification and urban environmental quality.  He created 50 new national park units.  He signed laws that established the National Trails and Wild and Scenic Rivers Systems.

He spoke about the need for conservation many times.  One of the most important was his “Special Message to the Congress on Conservation and Restoration of Natural Beauty” on February 8, 1965.  Following are a few excerpts from that speech.

 For centuries Americans have drawn strength and inspiration from the beauty of our country. It would be a neglectful generation indeed, indifferent alike to the judgment of history and the command of principle, which failed to preserve and extend such a heritage for its descendants.

To deal with these new problems will require a new conservation. We must not only protect the countryside and save it from destruction, we must restore what has been destroyed and salvage the beauty and charm of our cities. Our conservation must be not just the classic conservation of protection and development, but a creative conservation of restoration and innovation. Its concern is not with nature alone, but with the total relation between man and the world around him. Its object is not just man’s welfare but the dignity of man’s spirit.

I have already proposed full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and directed the Secretary of the Interior to give priority attention to serving the needs of our growing urban population.

President Johnson designated Marble Canyon, Arizona, as a national monument in 1969 (later added to Grand Canyon NP; photo by Nicholas Hartman)

The 28 million acres of land presently held and used by our Armed Services is an important part of our public estate. Many thousands of these acres will soon become surplus to military needs. Much of this land has great potential for outdoor recreation, wildlife, and conservation uses consistent with military requirements. This potential must be realized through the fullest application of multiple-use principles

Air pollution is no longer confined to isolated places. This generation has altered the composition of the atmosphere on a global scale through radioactive materials and a steady increase in carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels. Entire regional airsheds, crop plant environments, and river basins are heavy with noxious materials.

The beauty of our land is a natural resource. Its preservation is linked to the inner prosperity of the human spirit.  The tradition of our past is equal to today’s threat to that beauty. Our land will be attractive tomorrow only if we organize for action and rebuild and reclaim the beauty we inherited. Our stewardship will be judged by the foresight with which we carry out these programs. We must rescue our cities and countryside from blight with the same purpose and vigor with which, in other areas, we moved to save the forests and the soil.

References:

Association of Centers for the Study of Congress.  President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Natural Beauty Message.  Available at:  http://acsc.lib.udel.edu/items/show/292.  Accessed February 5, 2018.

Johnson, Lyndon B.  1965.  Special Message to the Congress on Conservation and Restoration of Natural Beauty.  The American Presidency Project.  Available at:  http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=27285.  Accessed February 5, 2018.

National Park Serivce.  Lyndon B. Johnson and the Environment.  Available at:  https://www.nps.gov/lyjo/planyourvisit/upload/EnvironmentCS2.pdf.  Accessed February 5, 2018.

Karl August Mobius, Ecology Pioneer, Born (1825)

The concept of biocenosis—that plants and animals live together in an interactive community—is central to the science of ecology, and, therefore, to conservation.  Both the term and idea originated with the pioneering German zoologist, Karl August Mobius.

Mobius was born in the small Prussian town of Eilenburg, Germany, on February 7, 1825 (died 1908).  He worked first as an elementary school teacher until his interest in natural history took him to the University of Berlin to study science.  His skill as a scientist became obvious and soon he was appointed the first zoology professor at the University of Kiel and the director of the university’s Zoological Museum.  He eventually became rector (i.e., president) of the university.

Karl August Mobius (1894 oil by Ernst Hildebrand)

Because Kiel is an important fishing port, Mobius began studying oysters and oyster farming.  He expanded his studies to marine biology generally and conducted research throughout the northern European coasts.  He was intrigued by the voyages of the great German explorer Alexander von Humboldt, and followed his example with an expedition to Mauritius and the Seychelles during 1874-1875.  He wrote a comprehensive review of the fauna of that area which became a standard text in marine biology.

His studies of corals and foraminiferans resulted in his discovery of symbiosis, the mutual interaction of two or more organisms living together.  He went farther, however, developing the more general idea that organisms living in the same habitat all interact in various ways, a concept that we now call biocenosis.  Those organisms comprise a community, a distinct level of biological complexity.  For these concepts, Mobius is generally considered one of the pioneers of the science of ecology.

He was also a central figure in the development of public opportunities to experience nature.  Along with his leadership of his university’s zoological museum, he co-founded the Hamburg Zoo in 1863 and led the design and creation of Germany’s first public aquarium.  In 1887, he became the first director of the new Natural History Museum of Berlin.

References:

Eilenburg, Germany.  Karl August Moebius (1825-1908).  Available at:  https://www.eilenburg.de/55/.  Accessed February 5, 2018.

Encyclopedia Britannica.  Karl August Mobius.  Available at https://www.britannica.com/biography/Karl-August-Mobius.  Accessed February 5, 2018.

Colin Murdoch, Inventor of the Tranquilizer Gun, Born (1929)

It is an essential tool of wildlife conservation.  It is the only effective way to collect data from living animals.  It is the only safe way to capture, mark and release live animals.  It is one of the first scenes in most wildlife television shows.  It is the tranquilizer gun.  And we owe it to pharmacist, veterinarian and inventor Colin Murdoch.

New Zealand commemorative stamp honoring the inventions of Colin Murdoch

Murdoch was born on February 6, 1929, in Christchurch, New Zealand (died 2008).  He wasn’t a particularly good student, hampered by dyslexia, but he was always good with his hands—he was also ambidextrous—and loved both nature and technology.  He recounted that he had vivid dreams in which ideas for inventions would appear, rotating around in three-dimensions.  He kept a notepad by his bed to draw out the inventions when he woke.

When he was ten, Murdoch developed a unique way to make a controlled explosion.  He built a gun that used his technique, and he hunted small game with it for many years.  During World War II, he gained experience repairing guns for family and neighbors, because new guns were not available.  His extensive knowledge of guns would prove useful later.

He trained to become a pharmacist, following in his father’s footsteps.  After World War II, New Zealand suffered from a shortage of skilled professionals, including veterinarians in a livestock-oriented country.  So, Murdoch began serving other animals as well as humans—and added “veterinarian” to his professions.

He became concerned with the high rate of infections when doctors reused glass syringes—spreading the various diseases they were attempting to cure.  So in 1956, he invented the disposable plastic syringe, now the standard way to give injections.  He is credited with saving millions of lives for this single invention.

His work with animals, both domestic and wild, convinced him that a better way was needed to capture and restrain animals.  Drawing on his knowledge of firearms and hypodermic needles, he adapted an air pistol to fire a large feathered hypodermic dart that could inject a tranquilizer into an animal without having to capture it.  The dart’s velocity could be varied to match the size and distance of the animal, reducing injury to the target.  Patented in 1959, the gun was an instant success and is now a standard tool of wildlife management.

Colin Murdoch in Africa with tranquilized zebra

Murdoch also realized that the tranquilizing drugs used at the time—curare and nicotine—often caused death of wild animals because of their excessive physiological response to being darted.  So, he worked on adapting dosages to individual species and conditions, and he developed new chemicals that were safer and more effective.  He also developed the strategy of introducing an antidote for the tranquilizer as soon as possible to reduce impact on the treated animal.

In all, Murdoch held more than 40 patents for his inventions and was broadly honored for his contributions.  A later invention—loved and hated by us all—is the child-proof cap for medicine bottles.  He was made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2000.

So, whenever you see an ear tag on a deer or watch a documentary about capturing and re-locating elephants or rhinos, give a little shout out to the man who made it possible—Colin Murdoch.

References:

Derby, Mark.  2010.  Inventions, patents and trademarks—Farming inventions.  Te Ara, the Encyclopedia of New Zealand.  Available at:  https://teara.govt.nz/en/postage-stamp/25400/murdoch-tranquilliser-gun.  Accessed February 4, 2018.

Nzedge.com.  Colin Murdoch—Dreamer for Millions.  Available at:  http://www.nzedge.com/legends/colin-murdoch/.  Accessed February 4, 2018.

The Telegraph.  2008.  Colin Murdoch.  The Telegraph Obituaries, 13 Jun 2008.  Available at:  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/2125667/Colin-Murdoch.html.  Accessed February 4, 2018

National Wildlife Federation Created (1936)

The famous editorial cartoonist and conservationist Ding Darling had a vision for a new organization that would unite local and state groups—a national wildlife organization.  And so he made it happen!

“Ranger Rick” is the world’s oldest and most widely read nature magazine for children

Ding Darling (1876-1962) was the Pulitzer-Prize-winning cartoonist for the Des Moines Register (see more  here)  But he was also a devoted conservationist, with strong beliefs that our nation’s soils, wetlands and waterfowl needed protection.  He became Chief of the U. S. Biological Survey (now the Fish and Wildlife Service) for a brief two years, serving under President Franklin Roosevelt during 1934-1935.  During that time, he turned the survey from a sleepy bureaucracy into the modern, professional organization we know today.  He kick-started the system of national wildlife refuges and implemented the Duck Stamp that supports the purchase and maintenance of those refuges, now numbering more than 550 throughout the country.

But he had another vision as well.  He watched as local and some state-wide conservation groups formed and played major roles in their communities.  Darling believed the nation needed a conservation organization, too, in order to protect and enhance resources on a much large scale. He convinced President Roosevelt to hold a national meeting of conservation agencies and organizations in early February, 1936.  It was attended by 1500 people—and has been held annually ever since.

During that meeting, on February 5, the assembled delegates agreed to form the General Wildlife Federation.  Following Darling’s plan, the Federation was intended to represent state-level conservation groups, now unified so they could speak with a common voice.  The delegates elected Darling as president, a post he retained for several formative years of the new group.  The Federation was quickly endorsed by the states; within months forty-four states had formed state federations (now called affiliates) as the basis for the national group.  In 1938, the group changed its name to the National Wildlife Federation, as we still know it today.

The National Wildlife Federation has programs reaching the most remote parts of the world–and your neighborhood.

Since then, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) has become one of the largest and most influential conservation organizations in the U.S. and the world.  The NWF has over 6 million individual members and 51 affiliate groups (state, territorial and regional).  It publishes several popular magazines, including National Wildlife for adults and Ranger Rick for children.  It produces a television program and has a variety of internet and social media platforms.

The organization’s fundamental mission, however, has not changed since its inception—to conserve and enhance wildlife.  Their current strategic plan states their mission this way:

“We believe America’s experience with cherished landscapes and wildlife has helped define and shape our national character and identity for generations. Protecting these natural resources is a cause that has long united Americans from all walks of life and political stripes. To hunters, anglers, hikers, birders, wildlife watchers, boaters, climbers, campers, cyclists, gardeners, farmers, forest stewards, and other outdoor enthusiasts, this conservation ethic represents a sacred duty and obligation to protect and build upon our conservation heritage for the sake of wildlife, ourselves, our neighbors, and—most of all—for future generations.”

            To address that mission, the NWF partners with well over 100 other organizations in both the private and public sector.  They advocate for public policies that enhance wildlife conservation, both in the U.S. and around the world.

References:

Lendt, David. L.  2991,  Ding—The Life of Jay Norwood Darling.  Maecenas Press, Mt. Pleasant, SC.  196 pages.

National Wildlife Federation.  2017.  Strategic Plan.  Available at:  https://www.nwf.org/-/media/NEW-WEBSITE/Shared-Folder/PDFs/2017_NWF-Strategic-Plan_interactive.ashx.  Accessed February 2, 2018.

Nielsen, Larry A.  2017.  Nature’s Allies—8 Conservationist Who Changed Our World.  Island Press, Washington DC, 255 pages.

Congress Overrides President Reagan’s Veto of Clean Water Act (1987)

A major revision of the seminal 1972 Clean Water Act became law on February 4, 1987, when Congress overwhelmingly overrode President Reagan’s veto of the bill.  The revision added major new elements to water pollution control—and demonstrated the nation’s commitment to the environment.

Photo by USDA

The revision to the Clean Water Act was the first bill introduced into Congress in 1987—HR1—a major victory for conservation and the environment.  The bill was identical to one passed nearly unanimously by Congress the preceding October, but which died when President Reagan failed to sign it within the required ten days.  The so-called “pocket veto” worked because Congress had adjourned and could not schedule an override vote.  Reagan vetoed the bill, then and in 1987, because he considered it a budget-busting extravagance.  Controlling federal spending, he thought, was more important than controlling water pollution:  the “issue facing me today does not concern the ensuring of clean water for future generations.  The real issue is in the federal deficit….”

Aquatic biologists collecting water samples (photo by Eric Vance, USEPA)

He judged wrongly.  Ensuring clean water was more important.  When Congress returned, they quickly passed the bill in both houses and sent it to the president.  He vetoed the bill on January 30.  The House overrode the veto on February 3, and the Senate on February 4.

The revisions to the Clean Water Act were significant:

  • Authorized $18 billion for grants and loans to local municipalities to build improved water treatment plants. By doing so, the act overcame local funding issues that had impaired the clean-up of discharges from sewerage systems, especially in smaller communities.

    Aerators like this are part of water treatment plants in municipalities, enhanced by the Clean Water Act revisions (photo by Annabel)
  • Created special programs to address pollution in major water bodies, including Chesapeake Bay, the Great Lakes and Boston Harbor.
  • Established a National Estuarine Program to begin protection of the country’s brackish water systems.
  • Furthered efforts to control non-point pollution, requiring states to develop their own management programs including “best management practices.”

References:

Congressional Quarterly.  1988.  Congress Overrides Clean-Water Bill Veto.  CQ Almanac 1987, 43:291-296.  Available at:  https://library.cqpress.com/cqalmanac/document.php?id=cqal87-1144980.  Accessed February 1, 2018.

Liebesman, Lawrence R. and Elliott P. Laws.  1987.  The Water Quality Act of `1987:  A Major Step in Assuring the Quality of the Nation’s Waters.  Environmental Law Reporter 17:10311-10329.  Available at:  https://elr.info/sites/default/files/articles/17.10311.htm.  Accessed February 1, 2018.

Weinraub, Bernard.  1987.  Clean Water Bill Passed by House over Reagan Veto.  The New York Times, February 4, 1987.  Available at:  http://www.nytimes.com/1987/02/04/us/clean-water-bill-passed-by-house-over-reagan-veto.html.  Accessed February 1, 2018.

National Geographic Society Incorporated (1888)

When I was a middle-schooler (or the equivalent, since Chicago didn’t have middle schools in 1960), I waited eagerly for every issue of National Geographic.   That magazine took me to faraway places filled with exotic plants, animals, people and landscapes—and taught me to want to protect and conserve them.

Educated and cultured homes in those days had two things that defined them, a set of encyclopedias and a subscription to National Geographic.  In my case, however, the magazine came several months after it reached subscribing homes.  My mother, who cleaned a doctor’s office, would bring home an issue every month that was about six months old, having rotated the magazines in the office.  Never mind not bringing me “breaking news,” it brought me a big, beautiful world.

National Geographic cover, December 1970 (photo by Larry Nielsen)

We owe thanks to the far-sighted men who organized a new group in mid-January, 1888.  Thirty-three intellectual leaders met in Washington, DC, to hash out the plans for “a society for the increase and diffusion of geographical knowledge.”  A week later, they returned for more discussion, now with twice as many people attending.  The next week, on January 27, the organization was incorporated as the National Geographic Society.

The first issue of National Geographic appeared in October, 1888, sent to the society’s 200 charter members.  It was a scholarly journal, with no pictures.  By the next year, the magazine began including colored drawings and the fold-out maps that have become regular features.  The society sponsored its first expeditions, to Alaska and Canada, during 1890-1891.

But it was Alexander Graham Bell who steered the magazine toward a more popular future.  Elected president of the society in 1898, he demanded the magazine include “pictures, and plenty of them….THE WORLD AND ALL THAT IS IN IT is our theme, and if we can’t find anything to interest ordinary people in that subject, we better shut up shop….”  Soon after, the new editor, Gilbert H. Grosvenor, included eleven pages of photographs of Tibet.  He expected to be fired, but was instead congratulated by members.  The change wasn’t universally embraced—later some board members resigned because the magazine was becoming a “picture book.”

National Geographic Headquarters in Washington, DC in 1920

But the vision of Bell and Grosvenor won the day, and ordinary people flocked to the magazine (Grosvenor became president in 1920 and served in that role until 1954).  Membership (that is, magazine subscriptions) passed one million in 1926.   Revenue from memberships allowed the society to fund explorers investigating the farthest reaches of the globe, more than 100 through the 1950s (and hundreds more since), and the magazine became the “publication of record for their discoveries.”

The list of world-leading scientists and explorers funded or publicized by National Geographic seems unending.  Jacques Cousteau published articles about the under-sea world. Louis and Mary Leakey reported their discovery of humanoid fossils at Olduvai Gorge.  The society sponsored the initial work of Jane Goodall to study chimpanzees in Tanzania.  John Glenn carried a National Geographic Society flag into space.  Dian Fossey was funded to study gorillas in Rwanda.  The discovery of the Titanic wreck was announced through the National Geographic Society.  Paul Sereno announced the world’s oldest dinosaur fossils.  Sylvia Earle conducted a five-year study of possible marine preserves.

National Geographic magazine and its clones have enormous outreach.  The signature magazine is published in 34 languages and reaches 60 million people monthly.  The National Geographic Channel is broadcast in 38 languages in 171 countries to 440 million households.  Add to that the society’s digital presence, internet applications, social media, websites and newsletters, and it is hard to avoid the society’s influence on education, science and conservation.

But for me, National Geographic will always be the dog-eared magazines with a bright yellow border that landed on our kitchen table each month.  They were the source of most of my school reports and for the inspiration for a career in conservation.

References:

Gale Cengage Learning.  The History of the National Geographic Society.  Available at:  http://gale.cengage.co.uk/national-geographic-virtual-library/history.aspx.  Accessed January 31, 2018.

National Geographic Press Room.  National Geographic Milestones.  Available at:    http://press.nationalgeographic.com/milestones/.  Accessed January 31, 2018.

National Geographic Press room.  National Geographic shows 30.9 Million Worldwide Audience via Consolidated Media report.  Available at:  http://press.nationalgeographic.com/2012/09/24/national-geographic-shows-30-9-million-worldwide-audience-via-consolidated-media-report/.  Accessed January 31, 2018.

This Month in Conservation

June 1
US Announced Withdrawal from Paris Climate Agreement (2017)
June 2
Edwin Way Teale, Nature Writer, Born (1899)
June 3
The World’s First Wilderness Area Established (1924)
June 4
Gaylord Nelson, Politician and Conservationist, Born (1916)
June 5
World Environment Day
June 6
Novarupta Volcano Erupted in Alaska (1912)
June 7
Thomas Malthus Published His Famous Essay (1798)
June 8
Bryce Canyon National Park Created (1923)
June 9
Coral Triangle Day
June 10
E. O. Wilson, Father of Biodiversity, Born (1929)
June 11
Jacques Cousteau, Ocean Explorer, Born (1910)
June 12
Frank Chapman, Dean of American Ornithologists, Born (1864)
June 13
Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General, Born (1944)
June 14
Bramble Cay Melomys Went Extinct (2016)
June 15
Global Wind Day
June 16
Gray Whale Delisted (1994)
June 17
World Day to Combat Desertification
June 18
Alexander Wetmore, Dean of American Ornithologists, Born (1866)
June 19
Feast of the Forest, Palawan, Philippines
June 20
Great Barrier Reef Protected (1975)
June 21
World Hydrography Day
June 22
Cuyahoga River Burst into Flames (1969)
June 23
Antarctic Treaty Implemented (1961)
June 24
David McTaggart, Greenpeace Leader, Born (1932)
June 25
David Douglas, Pioneering Botanist, Born (1799)
June 26
United Nations Chartered (1945)
June 27
Tajik National Park Added to World Heritage List (2013)
June 28
Mark Shand, Asian Elephant Conservationist, Born (1951)
June 29
Mesa Verde National Park Created (1906)
June 30
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Created (1940)
January February March April May June July August September October November December