MORE THAN HALF A CENTURY ago, in 1933, I accepted a
position with the National Park Service in the agency's Region IV, San
Francisco office. This was at the height of the Great Depression, and I
was very glad to be able to put my newly acquired Master's Degree in
Landscape Architecture to work. Soon I was at work in the woods
designing and overseeing construction of the Generals Highway, the
roadway the National Park Service and the Bureau of Public Roads were
constructing to connect Sequoia and General Grant national parks. A few
years later I returned to the Sequoia/Kings Canyon region to explore the
Kings Canyon back-country on horseback to see if the area met the
Service's criteria for inclusion within the national park system. For
these reasons Challenge of the Big Trees is for me a very
personal and exciting opportunity to renew old memories.
Now, as Sequoia National Park celebrates its
centennial and Kings Canyon National Park achieves its golden
anniversary, I am struck by how much the Sierra has changed since I
first went to work in the region. The highway I helped to design now
allows nearly a million visitors a year to see the beauties of the
southern Sierra, and the Kings Canyon region I studied is now the heart
of one of America's greatest wildernesses.
Challenge of the Big Trees tells of the
changes I have seen and more. It is a story of how the dedication and
sustained effort of a small group of interested citizens awakened the
consciousness of the American people and their government. As a result,
the Sierra's giant sequoias and wonderful high country were saved from
selfish destruction. In my lifetime of park work I have witnessed many
similar stories; people do make a difference.
The story of Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks
is also a fascinating bit of history. The authors detail not only how
the parks came to exist, but also how the parks were repeatedly
threatened with over-development, and how they were fortunate enough to
ward off those threats. Again the critical efforts of a few key persons
made all the difference. All too often national park histories tend to
end with the creation of the parks. Challenge of the Big Trees
avoids this weakness and explores in substantial detail the critical
actions that made the two parks what they are today.
As we face the environmental challenges of the future
it is wise to review the challenges of the past and the lessons they
provide. Much can be learned from reading this book; I commend it to
WILLIAM PENN MOTT, JR.
FORMER DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE