Preserve Wilderness?

It seems like a radical idea in a country that was still trying to conquer the wilderness, but by the 1830s some members of the east coast elite were talking about somehow preserving wilderness and other special natural areas

steps involved in preserving wilderness:
  1. seeing value in wilderness
  2. regret wilderness is vanishing
  3. idea of preserving a wilderness area as a park
  4. arguments to persuade people to do this: usually focused how people can enjoy it rather than on wilderness
  5. wanting to preserve wilderness needs to move from a few elite people to broader public opinion
  6. once you have set aside land how do you manage it?

John James Audubon
, naturalist and artist (1785-1851)
Audubon American

Francis Parkman, Jr., historian

Artist George Catlin in 1832 not only regretted the loss of wilderness but envisioned a national park to preserve a bit of the wild west, including both buffalo and Indians
1844 painting by George Caitlin

Thoreau wanted each town to have its own undeveloped area of woods as a park

Samuel Hammond had similar ideas on a larger scale--called for preserving some forest areas uncut

Before national parks can be established people need to
George Perkins Marsh
George Perkins Marsh focused on reasons to preserve forests:
Marsh's Address delivered before the Agricultural society of Rutland County, Sept. 30, 1847 "rain follows the plow" is the idea that farming will change the climate, making it less dry

by the 1850s people are figuring out how to make an argument, both practical and philosophical, for preserving wilderness
but figuring out how to do so is slow

Arkansas Hot Springs
1855 drawing of Yosemite valley
1864 preservation of Yosemite: the federal government gave the land to the state of California to make a park because no one knew how the federal government could manage it

This page written and copyright Pamela E. Mack
last updated 2/24/10
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