STEPHEN T. MATHER AND HIS ASSOCIATES
HORACE M. ALBRIGHT, in an address before the American Civic Association, in 1929, after paying tribute to Dr. McFarland as "the one man who eloquently pleaded for preservation of the scenic resources of our country," who at the conferences in Yellowstone and Yosemite "had helped formulate important protective policies," and who "had been the trusted adviser of two Secretaries of the Interior," told the story of Mr. Mather's connection with the National Park Service: "That (1914) autumn, Secretary Lane got some letters of complaint about conditions in the western parks, especially Sequoia. The letters came from a Chicago businessman who had been spending his summers in the western mountains and parks since 1905, when he climbed Mount Rainier with the Sierra Club, and who had been in the University of California with the Secretary some thirty years before.
"The complaints were fair but firm, and there was an insistent demand that park conditions be improved. The complainant was Stephen T. Mather, borax manufacturer and Sierra Club man. Finally, Secretary Lane wrote him substantially as follows: "Dear Steve: If you don't like the way the parks are being run, come down and run them yourself." The letter also contained a serious request to visit him in Washington. Mr. Mather came one cold December day in 1914, and after several days' consideration of the offer made by Mr. Lane, accepted the position of Assistant to the Secretary. . . . After appointing him and getting him settled in an office, he said: 'By the way, Steve, I forgot to ask you your politics.' There was not then and never has been any politics in the National Park Service. . . .
"Mr. Mather's enthusiasm, public spirit, and generosity quickly won him friends in every direction, and especially in Congress. The stage was set for action and results. . . . Both Representatives John E. Raker and William Kent of California introduced the National Park Service bills in the House in the Sixty-fourth Congress, and Senator Smoot introduced the measure in the Senate.
"After an exciting series of hearings and the surmounting of many unexpected delays and difficulties, on August 25, 1916, the Kent Bill became a law, and the National Park Service was created as the ninth bureau of the Department of the Interior."
Honorable Louis C. Cramton, for many years chairman of the appropriations sub-committee in charge of funds for the Interior Department, in a speech delivered on the floor of the House of Representatives, outlined the early days of the Park Service:
"When funds became available for actually establishing the National Park Bureau, Mr. Mather was appointed its first director. In the days of struggle before the creation of the bureau, and for many war years afterwards when funds for civilian bureaus were necessarily limited, Mr. Mather gave freely of his personal funds for the benefit of the National Park System.
"By no means the least factor in Mr. Mather's success in coordinating, administering, and developing the National Park System has been his uncanny ability to pick the right man for a particular job; and the loyalty to the cause, as represented by the chief, has caused many a park superintendent and other officer to give up opportunities for larger financial returns to stick to the 'park game,' as they call it. Working under Mr. Mather has been a game in the truest sense of the word.
"I have, in my service of many years on the Committee on Appropriations, come into rather close contact with many branches of the Government service in Washington and in the field, and nowhere have I seen such uniform devotion to the highest ideals of service to the country, such unselfish team-work, such an esprit de corps as in the National Park Service as organized and built up under Stephen T. Mather."
Never did a harassed executive inherit a more chaotic situation. Former Secretaries of the Interior, with little financial support from Congress, had called in the Army to patrol and guard Yellowstone. In some of the parks the Army Engineers built the roads; in others, toll roads had been built and were operated for fees. There was no clear line of demarcation between the responsibility of the Interior and War Departments. Secretary Garrison in 1914 had called to Secretary Lane's attention that appropriations charged to the War Department were really expended for the benefit of the Interior Department, and suggested that the time had come to take over the complete handling of the parks. Provision for caring for the public in hotels and lodges in the national parks was through the system of inviting private capital to erect the necessary buildings and operate them as concessions.
In the early years of his service, as Assistant to the Secretary of the Interior and as Director of the National Park Service, Mr. Mather drew around him a remarkable group of men. Horace M. Albright became Mr. Mather's right-hand man in working out the policies which were to guide the newly created National Park Service. In 1919, Mr. Albright succeeded the military officers in command at Yellowstone, becoming the first civilian superintendent in thirty-two years, and Field Assistant to the Director. In 1927, Mr. Albright, in addition to being Superintendent of Yellowstone, was made Assistant Director (field). When Mr. Mather resigned in 1929 because of ill health, Mr. Albright succeeded him as Director, and served five years in that capacity.
When Mr. Albright went to Yellowstone, Arno B. Cammerer, who had been Secretary of the Commission of Fine Arts, became the Assistant Director of the National Park Service. When Mr. Albright was appointed Director, Mr. Cammerer became Associate Director, and when Mr. Albright resigned in 1933, he was succeeded by Mr. Cammerer. Another man who has been continually with the National Park Service almost from the beginning is Arthur E. Demaray, who served successively as Editor, Administrative Assistant, and Assistant Director, and is now Associate Director of the Service.
After twenty-two years, the administration of the National Park Service is still in the hands of those who worked with Mr. Mather, absorbed his ideas and ideals, and who are striving to carry on the work as they believe Mr. Mather would have desired in the face of changing conditions and increasing responsibilities.
Superintendents called early into the Service who became well-known hosts for Uncle Sam in the parks and were long connected with the Service include George B. Door of Acadia National Park, Judge Walter Fry and Colonel John R. White of Sequoia National Park, Jesse Nusbaum of Mesa Verde, Edmund B. Rogers of Rocky Mountain and Yellowstone, Major O. A. Tomlinson of Mt. Rainier, M. R. Tillotson of Grand Canyon, J. Ross Eakin of Glacier, Grand Canyon, and Great Smoky Mountains, Thomas J. Allen who served in various parks and is now a Regional Director, Eivind Scoyen of Zion, Glacier, and Sequoia, Major Thomas Boles of Hawaii and Carlsbad Caverns, Frank Pinkley in charge of the Southwest Monuments, and many others, too numerous to mention, who have dedicated their best efforts toward serving their trustees, the American people, the owners of the national parks. Three superintendents who died in office and who have left indelible marks on the parks they administered and will long be remembered by park visitors, are W. B. Lewis of Yosemite, Roger W. Toll of Mt. Rainier, Rocky Mountain, and Yellowstone, and Colonel C. G. Thomson of Crater Lake and Yosemite. At the time of the tragic death of Roger Toll, the Park Service also lost another member of the staff, a young man who had done much to develop park ideals and strengthen the service to the public, George M. Wright of California.
The phrase "Stephen T. Mather and his Associates" is, therefore, used advisedly, for the National Park Service today is being administered by the men who helped to develop standards and ideals with him and who have dedicated themselves to carrying on the work which Mr. Mather so nobly began.
Along with many complications and troubles, Mr. Mather inherited certain traditions. The act creating Yellowstone National Park carried three general directions: (1) that the area was being set aside "as a public park or pleasuring ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people," (2) that all timber, mineral deposits, natural curiosities or wonders within the park should be preserved from injury or spoliation and retained in their natural condition, and (3) that provision should be made against the "wanton destruction of fish and game found within the park, and against their capture or destruction for the purposes of merchandise or profit."
After many earnest discussions with the staff of the National Park Service, on May 13, 1918, Secretary Lane wrote a letter to Mr. Mather setting forth for the information of the public an announcement of the policy of the Park Service. This policy, the Secretary stated, was based on three broad principles: "First, that the national parks must be maintained in absolutely unimpaired form for the use of future generations as well as those of our own time; second, that they are set apart for the use, observation, health, and pleasure of the people; and third, that the national interest must dictate all decisions affecting public or private enterprise in the parks." Stated obversely, the Secretary declared: "The commercial use of these reservations except as specially authorized by law, or such as may be incidental to the accommodation and entertainment of visitors, will not be permitted under any circumstances."
Since many of the national parks had been taken from national forests, and others created from the public domain adjoined existing national forests, it was natural that Mr. Lane should have laid down for the parks a policy on uses commonly permitted and encouraged in national forests. Concerning grazing he indicated to the Director of the National Park Service that in all national parks except Yellowstone he might permit grazing of cattle "in isolated regions not frequented by visitors and where no injury to the natural features of the parks may result from such use." But he banned utterly the grazing of sheep in national parks.
Secretary Lane gave specific instructions to the Director that he "should not permit the leasing of park lands for summer homes," and the reason he gave was this: "It is conceivable, and even exceedingly probable, that within a few years under a policy of permitting the establishment of summer homes in national parks, these reservations might become so generally settled as to exclude the public from convenient access to their streams, lakes, and other natural features, and thus destroy the very basis upon which this national playground system is being constructed." Since the building of summer homes is quite a common practice within the national forests, here was a distinct difference of policy in the national parks. Another difference of policy was announced in the prohibition of the cutting of trees except where absolutely necessary for buildings and other improvements for the accommodation of the public and the administration of the parks, and then the trees were to be removed without injury to the forests or disfigurement of the landscape.
The Secretary pointed out that roads, trails, and buildings should be built to harmonize with the landscape; he directed that all improvements should be carried out "in accordance with a preconceived plan developed with special reference to the preservation of the landscape," and that comprehensive plans for the future development of the national parks should be prepared.
The many private holdings in the parks, so long to harass the Service, were recognized as a menace to the public character of the parks, and a determination to eliminate them as rapidly as possible was recorded. Automobiles and motorcycles, newer then than now, were to be permitted in all of the national parks, but "mountain climbing, horseback riding, walking, . . . swimming, boating and fishing" were commended along with motoring.
The Secretary encouraged the educational use of the national parks, suggesting special facilities for classes in science and the establishment of museums in the parks.
For the future, the Secretary directed that, in studying new park projects, the Director should seek to find "Scenery of supreme and distinctive quality or some natural feature so extraordinary or unique as to be of national interest and importance."
It may be said in comment that as time has gone on, the tendency has been to stiffen rather than to relax these principles and standards of practice. Hunting never has been permitted in the national parks. Fishing for pleasure is encouraged. Grazing has been eliminated in many places and it is the hope of those now responsible for the administration of the parks that the time may come when there will be no grazing of cattle, as there is now no grazing of sheep in any national park or monument. Except in the rare instances when Congress has directed the introduction of extraneous and undesirable intrusions, and for the non-conforming uses which have sometimes been permitted for a period of years, the national parks have been protected from uses not compatible with their primary purpose. That is why they offer to the public today unrivaled opportunities to see the most beautiful and the most interesting regions in the United States and its possessions.
When Mr. Mather took over the directorship of the national parks, there were seventeen national parks and twenty-one national monuments. Except for the Sieur de Monts National Monument, now Acadia National Park, in Maine, all of the parks and monuments lay west of the Mississippi River. The system then included the national park in Alaska and the two volcanoes in Hawaii.
It will be recalled that the year in which the National Park Service was authorized by Congress saw also the first of the large Federal-aid grants to the States for the building of public highways, and that the month in which the Service was actually organized saw also the entrance of the United States into the World War. These two events exercised a very real influence on the national parks. The war caused an almost complete cessation in pleasure travel, to the extent that it was necessary to make repeated announcements that the national parks were open, as usual, to the public. But perhaps the movement which was to provide hard-surfaced highways for this country has left a more lasting and deeper impression on the parks. Motor travel, at first small in most of the national parks, with the improvement of highways has increased enormously, so that now, in most parks, it exceeds the substantial volume of visitors who come by rail and use buses in the parks. Those who come by rail generally are on "all-expense tours" and stay in the hotels or lodges. Those who come by automobile may patronize the hotels or lodges, but they frequently stay in the cabins or set up their Lares and Penates in the public camps provided for their comfort and convenience.
By some the great increase in visitors to the national parks is deplored. This is a valid criticism, no doubt, in those parks where the crowds are so great that they do actual damage to the park itself and limit the enjoyment of visitors. But it should be realized that the national parks do belong to the American people as a whole, and are open for their enjoyment and edification. When a pitcher of water is full, it will hold no more, and it is now recognized that there is such a thing as a park or a valley full of people, and that places of overflow must be provided. In Yosemite Valley, where the greatest congestion is reported, the high Sierra country around the park and the groves of Big Trees have been provided with facilities for caring for guests; these have good roads and trails, so that there is at least the invitation for valley visitors to go into other parts of the park. Probably other methods will need to be used to bring about a dispersal of large crowds at congested centers in the parks.
In Secretary Lane's letter of 1918, there was a direction to the effect that the buildings and other facilities for accommodating visitors be confined to as small an area as feasible. This principle has been followed in providing new facilities in old parks and in planning new parks. Hand in hand with this policy has been the definite aim of the National Park Service to hold great regions in each of the larger parks in as near a natural condition as possible, so that visitors on foot and on horseback might enjoy the wilderness features. It is now clear that if there is to be anything like an adequate supply of wilderness regions in the national parks, these areas must be increased by incorporating into the National Park System those remaining untouched areas which meet the standards set by Yellowstone, Yosemite, and other superlative national parks. Already the inroads on the wilderness have been so great that there are comparatively few unspoiled areas left, just as Ambassador Bryce predicted in 1912. And as the wilderness has been vanishing, the demand for "back country" into which hikers and horseback riders may go is increasing. The trends are unmistakable.
The wisdom of Secretary Lane, Mr. Mather and his associates is increasingly apparent, as time demonstrates the need for the safeguards they set up. The Department of the Interior and the National Park Service have been obliged to accept from the hands of Congress national parks with undesirable easements and rights in them. Congress has even directed the desecration of certain national parks, as in the case of the Hetch Hetchy; but the Department and the Service have striven steadily to decrease and eliminate all adverse uses and practices in the national parks, and to foster restoration to natural conditions wherever possible. It has been found that in meadows which have been grazed for years, the wild flowers will come back in areas protected from grazing.
When Mr. Mather assumed office, there was little understanding of the national parks as a well-defined type of land-use. The public knew about Yellowstone as a land of wonders, and Yosemite as a valley incomparable, but few dreamed that the foundation was being laid for a new and entrancing type of reservation which would bring to young and old much enjoyment and many cultural opportunities.
Mr. Mather put himself and his private fortune at the service of the national parks. He purchased the Tioga Road entrance into Yosemite when he could not secure public appropriations to buy it. He interested his friends in aiding the parks. He lectured on national parks in all parts of the country, and gave to his audiences a new conception of national parks and their service to the public. He explained the difference between national parks and national forests. Even today there is much confused thinking about national parks and national forests.
Definitions sometimes seem tedious, but perhaps it is just as well to present a simple description of each which has been used by the American Civic Association as a measuring rod. According to the Park Primer, issued in four editions, beginning in 1922, "A NATIONAL PARK is an area, usually of some magnitude, distinguished by scenic, scientific, historic, or archeologic attractions and natural wonders and beauties which are distinctly national in importance and interest, selected as eminent examples of scenic, scientific or historic America, and preserved with characteristic natural scenery, wildlife and historic or archeologic heritage, in an unimpaired state, as a part of a National Park System for the use and enjoyment of this and future generations."
In this same Park Primer it is recognized that "Recreational uses of the National Forests are valuable to the public and may be broadly and beneficently extended and encouraged, always, however, in the knowledge that the primary purposes of national forests are the provision of timber and the conservation of water-sources, and that dependence for recreational uses of such areas must not lose sight of these primary purposes and other secondary commercial uses of National Forests. In National Forests, grazing and other commercial uses are permitted, hunting and fishing under state laws are allowed, private individuals may erect and occupy summer cottages. There are many beautiful and inspiring views in the National Forests. Especially fine stands of trees are frequently given protection. Forest cover along streams is sometimes left uncut. Study areas of characteristic timber are being set aside to be kept in their primitive state. Many wildlife sanctuaries are contained within National Forests. Generally speaking, the U. S. Forest Service pursues a policy of providing for selective cutting of timber as it becomes ripe for market, as authorized by law; supervises the grazing of herds owned by private individuals, permits fencing of pasture, and meets the economic demands made upon the forests."
Since this was written, the Forest Service has set aside a large number of Primitive Areas by Executive Order of the Secretary of Agriculture. These are generally roadless, but grazing and cutting of timber are not necessarily entirely excluded. The Forest Service is now developing recreation plans for certain areas in which conflicting commercial uses are being excluded or reduced. It so happens that some of the Primitive and Recreation Areas meet all of the national-park standards. These areas were in the forests when they were transferred, often by Executive Order of the President, from the public domain, long before there was a National Park Service. Now that the national-park land-use is recognized, the areas which meet all the national-park standards will undoubtedly, in the course of the next few years, be transferred to the National Park System.
The national parks and monuments have been added to the system carefully. Probably no Federal agency ever existed which has reported adversely on as many proposals for additional lands as has the National Park Service. When the public first became aware of the drawing power of national parks, every community, every State, and every promotion organization wanted to create a national park in its vicinity. One of the most famous fights to keep an area out of the National Park System was made when it was proposed that the Ouachita National Forest be transferred to the National Park Service. It was easily demonstrated that the Ouachita National Forest was being administered under a policy fully adapted to its best possibilities. It was an economic asset in a State which very much needed economic assets. Its scenery, while pleasant, was not outstanding and, in the opinion of land-planning students, would never have drawn a national patronage. Congress refused to consider a change of status, and the Forest Service was permitted to continue its already well-established policy of making the land pay its way.
If the Federal Government were the only agency dealing in parks it might not be possible to apply so strict an entrance examination; but, fortunately, the States are now building creditable State Park Systems to preserve in their natural condition the best examples of State scenery and to provide recreational and educational opportunities for the people of the State. There are also the county and regional parks and parkways in addition to the town and municipal park systems. It is, therefore, possible and practicable to limit national parks to national service.
For the most part, national parks have been added one by one. Mt. McKinley, Alaska, was created in 1917. At the time that the National Park Service was created, Grand Canyon was a national monument administered by the Forest Service. In 1919 it was made a national park by Congress. In the same year Acadia National Park was created to include a national monument and additional land purchased and given to the Government. This same year, Zion, that colorful canyon in Utah, became a national park, and in 1928, Bryce Canyon, which had been a national monument, was transformed into a national park.
Up to this time there had been only one national park in the East, where the public lands had long since passed into private ownership, and yet, almost miraculously there were some areas comparatively free from the scars of civilization. In the twenties, therefore, Secretary Work set up the Southern Appalachian National Park Commission, consisting of Representative Henry W. Temple of Pennsylvania, William C. Gregg of New Jersey, Major William A. Welch of New York, Harlan P. Kelsey then of Massachusetts, but formerly of North Carolina, and Colonel Glenn S. Smith of the Department of the Interior. The Commission was charged with the duty of recommending a national park in the Southern Appalachians. After careful survey of the ground, the Committee reported, recommending the Great Smoky Mountains and a long strip of the Blue Ridge in Virginia. The resulting Temple-Swanson Act authorized the Secretary of the Interior to accept lands for these parks and for Mammoth Cave National Park, in Kentucky. The problem was how to bring these areas, mostly privately owned, back into public ownership. The States of Tennessee and North Carolina appropriated money and raised private subscriptions to purchase the land, but when it seemed that the project was about to fail, Mr. John D. Rockefeller, Jr., made five million dollars available. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established for protection in 1930. Mr. Rockefeller helped to the extent of half a million dollars in the purchase of the Blue Ridge area, and the Shenandoah National Park was established in 1935. The Grand Tetons came into the system in 1929. In 1931 Isle Royale in Lake Superior, in 1934 the Everglades in Florida, and in 1935 Big Bend in Texas were authorized. But purchase of the necessary lands has dragged. The areas are not yet national parks.
In the Report of Director Albright, dated October 12, 1932, it was stated that the National Park Service administered twenty-two national parks, totaling some 13,000 square miles, and thirty-six national monuments, totaling some 6,500 square miles. Then on July 28, 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt by Executive Order transferred a long list of monuments to the Park Service. This brought under a single central jurisdiction all of the monuments created by Executive Order under the National Antiquities Act, and other miscellaneous areas, some of which have been re-transferred.
Today the National Park Service administers twenty-six national parks and eighty-two national monuments, covering some twenty-one and a half million acres of land and water, of which nearly six million acres lie in Alaska.
It must not be supposed that the national parks, even as they are today, have been easily defended against selfish and unwarranted encroachments. The Hetch Hetchy fight which resulted in turning the Hetch Hetchy yosemite without recompense over to the City and County of San Francisco was one of the most tragic and disastrous experiences in all national-park history. The people of San Francisco did, indeed, invest a vast sum of money in the making of the reservoir and in construction of the necessary accompanying workssomething like a hundred million dollars, it is reported; but many engineers now think that a much smaller expenditure would have brought to the city all that was needed. There never was any claim that there were not alternative physical schemes, only that this proposal could be carried out more cheaply. And now even this claim seems disproved. It may take hundreds of years, but perhaps some day this great continent will be inhabited by a race of people who value their heritage of natural scenery so highly that they will redeem the Hetch Hetchy, and allow Nature to go to work with her age-taking remedies to restore the beauty that has been unthinkingly given away!
The Grand Canyon National Park, one of the most marvelous spectacles in the entire world, has been subject to repeated attacks. Its first protection came when, aroused by a reported project to encircle the rim by a sight-seeing electric trolley line, Gifford Pinchot, stirred up by Dr. McFarland, persuaded "Teddy" Roosevelt to make it a national monument by Executive Order. Thirty-two years were required to establish it as a national park, and when Congress did act in 1919, mining and grazing were permitted under the act. Since then, the mining provision has been revoked, but not until after a long fight, in which mining claims, outrageously enough, were staked along the Bright Angel Trail in a way to give a monopoly to the holders to conduct trips along this trail from the rim into the floor of the canyon far below! At last it was proved that these claims were not filed or maintained in good faith. The park is now safe from new filings, and old claims have been abrogated.
By Act of Congress in 1891, the Secretary of the Interior was authorized to grant, under certain conditions, rights-of-way in Yosemite, Sequoia, and General Grant parks for the construction of electrical plants and all their paraphernaliareservoirs, mining, quarrying, and cutting of timber. In 1911 this authority was slightly amended to limit easements to fifty years, and in 1921 such installations were made by law subject to specific action of Congress.
Another menacing threat to three national parks was included in the acts of dedicationall before the creation of the National Park Service. In Glacier, Rocky Mountain, and Lassen National Parks, there was an identical provision that "the U. S. Reclamation Service may enter upon and utilize for flowage or other purposes any area within said park which may be necessary for the development and maintenance of a Government reclamation project." In the Grand Canyon Act, passed in 1919, the wording varies slightly, but does permit reclamation projects.
It just happened that at the time these parks were created, this country had been stirred by the new possibilities opened up through the reclamation of arid lands in the West. There were not only great engineers who installed the systems, but there were minor prophets who heralded reclamation as a deliverance which would give happy homes and pleasant living to many independent farmers. No one at that date knew, or apparently cared, whether the projects were economically sound, and certainly there were few who foresaw the era of over-production and stabilized population into which we were heading.
Perhaps it was not unnatural, therefore, that Secretary Lane, in whose Department the Reclamation Service was an established bureau, who was himself an ardent believer in the rosy promise of reclamation for the West, and who had only recently been introduced to his responsibilities concerning national parks, should not at once have realized that reclamation was incompatible with national parks. Indeed, Robert B. Marshall, whose training had been as a geographer, during the time when he was serving as Superintendent of National Parks, prior to the appointment of Mr. Mather as Director, consistently advised the Secretary to look out for the interests of reclamation in all pending measures to create new national parks.
It was not until Judge John Barton Payne became Secretary of the Interior in 1920 that the National Park Service found a complete advocate. With his keen brain and his training in legal practice and on the bench, Judge Payne at once saw that if national parks were to survive at all, they must be held inviolate from adverse uses. In recent years public opinion has come to support the platform laid down by Judge Payne. Succeeding Secretaries of the Interior have generally supported the policies of the Park Service. Secretaries Wilbur and Ickes came in as known conservationists. In 1931 Congress wiped out many special privileges. In Rainier, Glacier, and Rocky Mountain parks authority for railway franchises was repealed; in Mesa Verde and Grand Canyon authorization for prospecting was abrogated; in Mt. McKinley prospecting was sharply restricted.
The one national park which came to us without strings of any kind is the firstYellowstone. And yet predatory interests in Montana and Idaho have tried again and again to set up profitable enterprises in this parkprofitable, it may be explained, because of the free storage they hoped to secure on the top of Yellowstone Lake, or from free franchises for railroads. From 1884 to 1893, private interests sought unsuccessfully to secure from Congress the authority for a right-of-way for a railroad through Yellowstone National Park, and when the proposal met resistance, an effort was made to eliminate the desired lands from the park. Louis Cramton, a member of Congress for eighteen years, in his "Early History of Yellowstone National Park and Its Relation to National Park Policies," issued in 1932, told of the years in which the House of Representatives seemed "amenable to the desire of these private interests, and the Senate was the stronghold of opposition under the leadership of Senator Vest, but," declared Mr. Cramton, "finally the time came that any railroad right-of-way proposal or park segregation scheme brought definite adverse report from Congressional committees."
One of the great menaces to national parks came with the passage of the Federal Water Power Act of 1920, which would have opened all national parks to power installations. Secretary Payne opposed the signing of the measure by President Wilson. It was only when a "gentleman's agreement" was reached between the leaders in Congress and the President that at the next session they would give active support to an amendment which would exclude national parks from the provisions of the act, that President Wilson finally signed the measure. In the next session of Congress, it appeared that, though the Congressional leaders were not disposed to recede from their promise, they personally would not have been disappointed if their efforts had met with failure. In other words, they apparently did not feel that they had guaranteed success. Dr. McFarland, representing the American Civic Association, was active, in cooperation with other conservation organizations, in making it impossible for the proposed amendment to fail. Finally the amendment was passed in the closing days of the session and all existing national parks were definitely excluded from the provisions of the Federal Water Power Act.
In the meantime, both Montana and Idaho were pushing their claims for the waters of Lake Yellowstone. Montana desired a dam at the outlet of the lake, which lies high on the crest of the Rocky Mountains, in order to control the flow of flood waters into Montana. At the hearings there was ample testimony to the effect that the proposal, which was advanced by politicians to win political favor, was not even a sound engineering enterprise. Fortunately, Judge Payne made it clear at this hearing that Yellowstone Lake should not be tampered with. He saw clearly that such a commercial invasion in the hitherto inviolate Yellowstone Park would not only grievously injure the park but would ultimately set a precedent which would wreck other parks. In Judge Payne, the proposers of commercial works in national parks met their Waterloo.
At the same time that these Montana proposals were pending in the early twenties, Idaho proposed to build a reservoir in the southwest corner of Yellowstone, and finally, when it appeared that Congress was unwilling to grant such permission, a movement was set on foot to remove the area bodily from the park. This measure was fought bitterly by the National Park Service and the conservation organizations. Idaho at that time also proposed to divert water from Lake Yellowstone through a tunnel across the Divide. This proposal was revived in the last Congress and will undoubtedly appear again, though it does not seem probable that Congress will depart from the policy of nearly sixty years which has given Yellowstone National Park absolute protection from commercial projects.
The action of Congress in authorizing the Colorado-Big Thompson water diversion project was fought by all the conservation organizations, insofar as it affected Rocky Mountain National Park. Unfortunately, the provision in the act creating the park was still in effect. Moreover, the Reclamation Service made definite representations that there would be no need to enter on the park land in the construction of the tunnel underneath. The damage would fall principally on Grand Lake, the rim of which had already suffered from private occupation, and upon the Big Thompson approach highway. The time will come when national park approach roads will receive legal protection, but at the present time these roads are under various state and local jurisdictions. When they pass through national forests they have received some protection, and the tendency is to exercise increased care in nearby cutting operations.
Perhaps this account of the service which Mr. Mather and his associates have rendered to the American people in giving responsible custodianship to lands hitherto open to many misuses, in their efforts to free the parks from legal handicaps and threatened invasions, and in developing and adopting standards for qualifications and uses of the national parks, can best be closed by presenting a "Who's Who" in the National Park Service of today:
Newton B. Drury, Director; Arthur E. Demaray, Associate Director; Hillory A. Tolson, Chief of Operations; George A. Moskey, Chief Counsel; Conrad L. Wirth, Supervisor of Recreation and Land Planning; Carl P. Russell, Supervisor of Research and Interpretation; Ronald F. Lee, Supervisor of Historic Sites; Oliver G. Taylor, Chief of Engineering; Thomas C. Vint, Chief of Planning; John D. Coffman, Chief of Forestry; Isabelle F. Story, Editor-in-Chief; W. Bruce Macnamee, Chief U. S. Travel Bureau; Fred T. Johnston, Acting Director, Region I, Richmond, Virginia; Thomas J. Allen, Director, Region II, Omaha, Nebraska; Miner R. Tillotson, Director, Region III, Santa Fe, New Mexico; and John R. White, Director, Region IV, San Francisco, California.
Last Updated: 18-Nov-2009