In many cases we literally do not know how good a performance to expect of healthy land unless we
have a wild area for comparison with sick ones. (Aldo Leopold: Sand County Almanac.)
John Muir and Gifford Pinchot are well known names in the history of American forests and public lands, but
so is Aldo Leopold. Each stands as an icon for a particular frame of thought about landscapes and the environment, their management and use. Looking through their eyes we gain insight into conservation and environmental protection as it stands today.
John Muir was a naturalist/writer who became known as a preservationist during the American Conservation Period (1850-1920). He and others helped establish not only Yellowstone National Park in 1872 and Yosemite National Park in 1890, but also the concept that one could and should afford a public natural area, the highest level of protection.
Having made a fortune through lumber and land speculation (parcels were purchased, the trees cut down and sold, and the land turned to agriculture), Gifford Pinchot’s parents both witnessed and later mourned the awful destruction of forests in the East. In a sense they dedicated their son to restoration of these landscapes, also endowing the Yale School of Forestry in 1900.
But what about Leopold? Read on for fascinating insight into American conservation, or use
this information along with one or two of the videos at right for a unit study. Conservation is
of critical importance to the social and economic health of a nation, but it can also be divisive.
Videos of Interest
- The Greatest Good
A documentary series about the US Forest Service
- America's Best Idea
A PBS synposis of the Ken Burns film on national parks
- PBS Nature Documentaries
A selection of nature/conservation documentaries
The above are external links.
Three Types of Conservation
Restoration, reconciliation and reservation: what's the difference, when and how do they work, and
why the heck should we care? Dip your toes
into this diverse subject or use it to stimulate
a class or group discussion ...