Romance of the National Parks



MAN, himself a product of Nature, has in the years since he emerged into the species Homo sapiens, spent considerable time—eons, in fact—in creating a man-made environment. This is superimposed upon or takes the place of Nature's Garden of Eden. In the process, Man has destroyed, or marred beyond recognition, much beautiful landscape. Thus, today a great part of the civilized world lives in the close ranks of city dwellings, surrounded by concrete-covered ground, in buildings of brick, stone, and steel which more or less effectively cut off the free sun and air provided by Nature. These human beings are often completely divorced from contact with the Earth. Indeed, today, were it not for city and regional parks and playgrounds, many children would not know at first hand anything about the trees, the streams, and the growing plant life which played such an important part, economically and emotionally, in the lives of the pioneers in America. The park zoo for many millions is the only place where children and adults actually see animals other than domestic cats and dogs or caged birds.

But, it may be said, the civilization which produced cities and city life has brought with it refinements of living and culture in art, music, literature, and learning unknown to aboriginal man. Without deprecating what the Arts and Sciences have done to lift Man from primitive living conditions (in which danger to life and limb no doubt counterbalanced the healthful advantages of living in the open) and to enlarge his opportunities for acquiring "knowledge of information," it is pertinent to inquire whether his narrowed contact with Nature has taken away from Man something of value which it is desirable to recapture.

Perhaps the false sense of importance which comes to many large money-makers in the marts of trade, to successful politicians, to the producers of lucrative jazz in art and music, and to all who gain power not based on human service, is one of the regrettable losses visited upon Man by man-made civilization. The great men of the past—teachers, scientists, statesmen, artists, musical composers, creators of living literature—have nearly always possessed a quality of humility. They studied the history of men, institutions, and ideas which transcends the history of single individuals. Or they studied Science, which yields knowledge reluctantly, bit by bit, as a reward for persistent search and questioning, and invariably leaves the student with the realization that there is a vast reservoir of knowledge and laws which limited intelligence and mental powers have yet failed to penetrate. Or they listened to an inner voice or followed an inner light, and so came to be called inspired. These "great" discovered in various ways some inkling of the laws of life and living beyond their making. Their humility came from a realization that they were but an infinitesimal part of a Universe so great that it beggars human comprehension. They learned that they were subject to laws which, however little understood, moved inexorably; that, without choice, they came into the world and faced or sought to escape its problems.

Primitive peoples read the laws of Nature dimly, perhaps, and personified in their gods and superstitions the little knowledge that they sensed. But the "gods" kept them disciplined and humble. Today, many of the peoples who have cast off the formalized religions and superstitions of the past have also lost contact with the manifestations of Nature and the laws of the Universe. They have lost their sense of proportion, and their perspective has become distorted.

Moreover, the city habits of living indoors and of intense application to mundane problems, wear men out before their time. At best, the span of human life is short. Consider how many businessmen, who now live in an age when Science has contributed to the lengthening of human life, find themselves at fifty or sixty with wrecked digestions, worn-out hearts, hardened arteries or victims of some of the hundred-and-one diseases due to slothful indoor physical habits and continuous mental strain. It is a paradox that, with the possible prolongation of life, there are so many who cannot enjoy the later years saved to them by Science.

John Muir, who became in his middle years a successful orchardist, always referred to his earlier years in the Sierra, when he earned little money, ate sparingly, and wandered much, as the "free" years of his life. He might have called them the "rich" years of his life, when he was not encumbered with possessions and their care. This is no argument for avoiding responsibility or for escaping duties. But it is an argument for the rejuvenation and the restoration of equilibrium which comes from outdoor recreation.

One of the proverbial joys of youth comes from pleasure in physical movement and muscular well-being. Outdoor recreation can continue to give equal pleasure to the middle-aged and elderly, if they are able to ward off the painful diseases which attack the muscles and nerves of over-fed and under-exercised bodies.

But far beyond the pleasure of walking or riding horseback in the ordinary open country, indulging the eyes in pleasant prospects, feeling the welcome warmth of the sun and the revivifying breezes of the air, is the spiritual uplift which comes from the contemplation of superlative scenery. Man is indeed "in tune with the Infinite" when he scales high mountains and looks upon stupendous scenes.

Conrad Gesner, writing in 1555, as quoted in translation in the Sierra Club Bulletin of April, 1938, expressed something of this exaltation when he said: "For how great the pleasure, how great think you, are the joys of the spirit, touched as is fit it should be, in wondering at the mighty mass of mountains while gazing upon their immensity and, as it were, in lifting one's head among the clouds. In some way or other the mind is overturned by their dizzying height and is caught up in contemplation of the Supreme Architect."

Writing in the present period, Professor G. M. Trevelyan has not only traced the influence of natural beauty on human beings but has declared that sensitivity to fine scenery is indeed an index of the plane on which men and women are living. His words carry conviction: "The appeal of natural beauty is more commonly or at least more consciously felt today than ever before, just because it is no new argument, no new dogma, no doctrine, no change of fashion, but something far older yet far more fresh, fresh as when the shepherd on the plains of Shinar first noted the stern beauty of the patient stars. Through the loveliness of nature, through the touch of sun or rain, or the sight of the shining restlessness, we feel 'Unworded things and old to our pained heart appeal.' And to the young who have no pain, who have not yet kept watch on man's mortality, nature is a joy responding to their own, haunting them like a passion.

"This flag of beauty, hung out by the mysterious Universe, to claim the worship of the heart of man—what is it, and what does its signal mean to us? There is no clear interpretation. But that does not lessen its value. Like the Universe, like Life, natural beauty also is a mystery. But whatever it may be, whether casual in its origin as some hold who love it well, or whether as others hold, such splendor can be nothing less than the purposeful message of God—whatever its interpretation may be, natural beauty is the ultimate spiritual appeal of the Universe, of Nature, or of the God of Nature, to their nursling, man. It and it alone makes a common appeal to the sectaries of all our religious and scientific creeds, to the lovers of all our different schools of poetry and art, ancient and modern, and to many more beside these. It is the highest common denominator in the spiritual life of today."

Scenery breaks down into countless appeals—the air itself, the clouds, the mountain masses having form, texture, and color; water, restless and seething or smooth and quiet; all the plant cover from the tiny little ferns and fungi to the Big Trees. It is even inseparably linked to the birds and the beasts, large and small, living in their native habitats.

John Muir, in his Journal of 1868, spoke of the air. A young man on adventure bent, he was tramping down the Santa Clara Valley: "It was now springtime and the weather was the best we ever enjoyed. Larks and streams sang everywhere; the sky was cloudless, and the whole valley was a lake of light. The atmosphere was spicy and exhilarating. . . This San Jose sky was not simply pure and bright, and mixed with plenty of well-tempered sunshine, but it possessed a positive flavor, a taste that thrilled throughout every tissue of the body. Every inspiration yielded a well-defined piece of pleasure that awakened thousands of new palates everywhere. Both my companion and myself had lived on common air for nearly thirty years, and never before this discovered that our bodies contained such multitudes of palates, or that this mortal flesh, so little valued by philosophers and teachers, was possessed of so vast a capacity for happiness.

"We were new creatures, born again, and truly not until this time were we fairly conscious that we were born at all. Never more, thought I as we strode forward at faster speed, never more shall I sentimentalize about getting free from the flesh, for it is steeped like a sponge in immortal pleasure."

John C. Van Dyke, writing thirty-three years later, in 1901, commented on the air of the New World. Said he: "We have often heard of sunny Italy or the 'clear light' of Egypt, but believe me there is no sunlight there compared with that which falls upon the upper peaks of the Sierra Madre or the uninhabitable wastes of the Colorado Desert. Pure sunlight requires for its existence pure air, and the Old World has little of it left. . . . The same thick air is all over Europe, all around the Mediterranean, even over in Mesopotamia and by the banks of the Ganges. It has been breathed and burned and battle-smoked for ten thousand years. Ride up and over the high table lands of Montana—and one can still ride for days without seeing a trace of humanity—and how clear and scentless, how absolutely intangible that sky-blown sun-shot atmosphere! You breathe it without feeling it, you see through it a hundred miles and the picture is not blurred by it."

This ethereal air, then, is one of the first characteristics of national parks—one that is rapidly destroyed when, in the dry season, too many human beings are introduced into spaces which lose their clear air as they are too densely occupied.

Both John Muir and John Van Dyke deplored the damage to the wilderness character of the beautiful places of the earth. In 1897 Muir wrote: "The axe and saw are insanely busy, chips are flying thick as snowflakes, and every summer thousands of acres of priceless forests, with their underbrush, soil, springs, climate, and religion, are vanishing away in clouds of smoke."

Four years later, Van Dyke wrote: "With the coming of civilization the grasses and the wild flowers perish, the forest falls and its place is taken by brambles, the mountains are blasted in the search for minerals, the plains are broken by the plow and the soil is gradually washed into the rivers. Last of all, when the forests have gone the rains cease falling, the streams dry up, the ground parches and yields no life, and the artificial desert—the desert made by the tramp of human feet—begins to show itself. Yes; everyone must have cast a backward glance and seen Nature's beauties beaten to ashes under the successive marches of civilization."

Perhaps we must condone, or at least accept as inevitable, a certain amount of destruction and spoliation through the occupation of the land by the increasing horde of human beings, though it does seem strange that, as Van Dyke remarked: "Today, after centuries of association, every bird and beast and creeping thing—the wolf in the forest, the antelope on the plain, and wild fowl in the sedge—fly from his (man's) approach. They know his civilization means their destruction. Even the grizzly, secure in the chaparral of his mountain home, flinches as he crosses the white man's trail. The boot mark in the dust smells of blood and iron. The great annihilator has come, and fear travels with him."

And where Man and his buildings, his roads and his great waste piles do not penetrate, where even the sawmills have spared the trees, the cattle and sheep have spread over the forest undergrowth and in the mountain meadows and swept away from the surface of the earth the beauty and safety of the covering blanket furnished by Nature. Muir, in "My First Summer in the Sierra," following his flock, told of the high Yosemite country near Crane Flat: "We passed a number of charming garden-like meadows lying on top of the divide or hanging like ribbons down its sides, imbedded in the glorious forest. Some are taken up chiefly with . . . a robust, hearty, liliaceous plant, fond of water and determined to be seen. Columbine and larkspur grow on the dryer edges of the meadows, with a tall handsome lupine standing waist-deep in long grasses and sedges. Castilleias, too, of several species make a bright show with beds of violets at their feet. But the glory of these forest meadows is a lily. . . . The tallest are from seven to eight feet high with magnificent racemes of ten to twenty or more small orange-colored flowers; they stand out free in open ground, with just enough grass and other companion plants about them to fringe their feet, and show them off to best advantage. This . . . lily . . . is a true mountaineer, reaching prime vigor and beauty at a height of seven thousand feet. . . . And to think that the sheep should be allowed in these lily meadows! after how many centuries of Nature's care planting and watering them, tucking the bulbs in snugly below winter frost, shading the tender roots with clouds drawn above them like curtains, pouring refreshing rain, making them perfect in beauty, and keeping them safe by a thousand miracles; yet, strange to say, allowing the trampling of devastating sheep. One might reasonably look for a wall of fire to fence such gardens. . . . And so the beauty of lilies falls on angels and men, bears and squirrels, wolves and sheep, birds and bees, but as far as I have seen, man alone, and the animals he tames, destroy these gardens. Awkward, lumbering bears . . . love to wallow in them in hot weather, and deer with their sharp feet cross them again and again, sauntering and feeding, yet never a lily have I seen spoiled by them. Rather, like gardeners, they seem to cultivate them, pressing and dibbling as required. Anyhow not a leaf or petal seems misplaced."

This New World, which came fresh from Nature into our hands less than three hundred years ago, has suffered incredibly from the scars of our occupation. Great forests have gone and left sad cut-over lands, as in Michigan. The grassy plains where the buffalo roamed have become the "dust bowl." All game has been depleted and many species exterminated.

National parks cannot indeed bring to life extinct species, but they can and do offer sanctuary to the wildlife which still exists, and in the national parks the visitor may, if he strays from the motor roads, find friendly game, for the birds and the beasts seem to know when they are protected. In the national parks man need not be feared by the animals. He may have the priceless experience of making friends with the trustful deer and the gentle moose, though perhaps he should not meet the predatory bear too carelessly!

About the only views which cannot be harmed by man are the skies and clouds. John Muir wrote frequently in appreciation of the clouds. Wordsworth in his "Guide to the Lake District" referred to the "skiey influences" which brought such pleasure.

The emotional and spiritual enjoyment of unspoiled scenery, especially when it is on the "ten-league canvas" scale, may indeed bring a new religion and play an important part in the continuance of our particular civilization, for it is as sure as that Babylon and Nineveh are no more that New York and San Francisco will one day be deserted or eclipsed by a new occupation, unless we are able to command a spiritual stamina not developed by close-pressed humanity devoted solely to trade and material welfare.

Many words have been written in prose and poetry about the forms, colors, lights, and shades of the mountains. Wordsworth cautioned his readers that walks in the early morning ought to be taken on the eastern side of the vales, otherwise they will "lose the morning light, first touching the tops and thence creeping down the sides of the opposite hills, as the sun ascends," but he sagely remarked: "It is upon the mind which a traveler brings along with him that his acquisitions, whether of pleasure or profit, must principally depend."

Both Wordsworth and John Muir loved storms. At Muir Inlet, Glacier Bay, Alaska, Muir wrote in June of 1890: "Orchestral harmony of the storm, the wind in fine tune, the whole sky one waterfall. . . . How hazy and trivial all selfish pursuits seem at such times, when the whole brave world is in a rush and roar and ecstasy of motion—air and ice and water and the mighty mountains rejoicing in their strength and singing in harmony! . . . Storms are never counted among the resources of a country, yet how far they go towards making brave people. No rush, no corrupting sloth among people who are called to cope with storms with faces set, whether this ministry of beauty be seen or no. . . . The storm was a grand festival." Nearly twenty years before, in the Yosemite, Muir had written: "The storms of winter which so exalt and glorify mountains strike terror into the souls of those who are unacquainted with them, or who have only seen the lights of cities, but to anyone who is in actual contact with the wilderness, these storms are only emphatic words of Nature's love."

The variety of Nature is infinite. It is only in the monotony of city streets and conventional patterns of living that boredom becomes oppressive.

It may seem that the importance of walking and horseback riding and of actual contact with the Earth is over-emphasized. Certainly the acme of enjoyment involves more than being borne in a smooth-running car and seeing color, form, light, and shade, and hearing the more obvious sounds of Nature. The liquid notes of water slipping over smooth stones, the roar of the frothing cascades, the rustling of the leaves on the trees, the songs of the undisturbed birds, the calls of the wild animals can be heard only in comparative peace and quiet. Only faintly, if at all, can this finer music be heard by those who ride in automobiles, especially when they are part of a fast-moving procession in the midst of noises and smells from the exhausts of hundreds or thousands of motors. It must be recognized that the full aesthetic and emotional effect of delicate scenic pictures cannot be experienced when in rapid motion. To see the national parks adequately, if one is bound to an automobile, one must frequently stop to make use of the many "lookouts" provided by a thoughtful Government and one must, if one is able to walk on shopping expeditions or on golf links, walk on the inviting trails which radiate from every camp, inn, or museum group.

But the automobile is not to be despised. It carries the most ardent of walkers and horseback riders to the portals of the wilderness. It makes it possible for everyone to reach the high places on the face of the earth. Sometimes only a few hundred yards from the highway, one may find lonesome-looking places and may sense in some degree the excitement of standing alone to gaze on far-distant views. But, as one who stands high on a "peak in Darien," it is the lover of Nature who strays from the beaten path and the man-made trails who may reach the most sublime heights of emotional and spiritual climax. These are super experiences, to be treasured and remembered as long as one lives.

It is well known that a knowledge of music, its principles, its themes, its harmonies, and its repertory of fine compositions, adds greatly to the capacity to enjoy it. A musically ignorant person may be much moved emotionally by a great piece of music, but an educated listener will be more discriminating and understanding without necessarily sacrificing the elemental emotions set astir by great music.

So it is with the work of Nature. What we are accustomed to call a fine scene is always much more than that. An eye sensitive to beauty might see only the contours and colors which exert in themselves a highly emotional influence on the beholder. But the Scientist has made it possible for even the casual travelers to learn something of the age-old forces which have created the scene. The informed beholder may become discriminatingly appreciative.

In the national parks, the museum exhibits and the nature trails offer incomparable opportunities for visitors to penetrate the mysteries of creation which have been in process for a long, long time. They may make the acquaintance of the mighty glaciers on the ground and see how they have worked and are working. They may become friendly with the flowers and the trees and learn to greet them by name. They may see the birds and the beasts living their accustomed lives. All this and more can be the reward of those who visit the national parks by train or automobile, with only a moderate amount of walking.

In 1928, Secretary of the Interior Ray Lyman Wilbur appointed a Committee on the Study of Educational Problems in the National Parks. On the committee were Harold C. Bryant, Hermon C. Bumpus, Vernon Kellogg, John C. Merriam, and Frank R. Oastler. These scientists stressed the inspirational and educational values existing in national parks and recommended a program of interpretation which would enrich the experience of every park visitor. The result was a stimulation of the park museums, park observation stations, the development of guided trips on nature trails and throughout the parks, the increased use of the auto caravans, the enlivening of the campfire talks and the encouragement of college and school trips into the parks for purposes of study. The large number of tourists who join in all of these activities in the national parks, where there is no compulsory school law, has proved that education of this sort can be made alluring.

All this and more is described in an illustrated seventy-page pamphlet on "Research and Education in the National Parks" by Harold Bryant and Wallace W. Atwood, Jr.

That there is much to learn from cosmic forces cannot be denied. Archibald Rutledge, writing in American Forests, told of a summer visit to Virginia Beach, where "either to the northward or to the southward of the resort proper, one may walk for lonely miles the magnificent beach." Here on a starry August night, in the light of a "white-winger moon," with the Atlantic rolling in "indolent power and placid triumph," Mr. Rutledge heard "above the muffled music of the surf," a low humming, and overhead, a thousand feet up, he saw the lights of a mail plane. Then he looked at the forest, the ocean, the moon, and the stars. He saw "Capella dipping below the verge on mighty wings of light; Vega . . . steadfast in her destined place, yet holding a speed no mind could reckon; and where the Known and Unknown dimly merged," he watched "how Aldebaran kept his tremendous course." The comparison of man-made miracles of speed with the infinitely greater speed of the stars in their courses is obvious. Mr. Rutledge was right when he said: "About us everywhere is the hush of mystery, the pregnant silence of the undivulged. Over the land and over the sea, brooding on imperial mountains, gleaming in the shy wildflower's little brimming eyes is this sense of promise, of the coming fulfilment of even more than our dreams. In the natural world we have been lovingly preceded. Nature is tremendous with the music of rhythmic laws, the full discovery of which will serve to emancipate our hearts, making us full masters of our destiny."

Dr. John C. Merriam, in his book on "The Living Past," has given an entrancing account of the discovery of a cave in California which revealed past history far back of anything known to man, and which also proved the accuracy of an Indian legend. Dr. Merriam explained: "Though the story came to us repeatedly, it was always in the same form: of a cave with a magic pool called in the Indian language, 'Samwel,' and that it was visited on account of the potency of its water in bringing good fortune. Always it concluded with an account of three maidens who failed to obtain good luck at the pool, and were told by a very aged woman of other water with stronger magic. A second pool was said to lie in a remote chamber, and to escape discovery excepting for the most adventurous. In the course of a long search for this more powerful charm the three maidens came to a pit with sloping borders. As they approached the entrance, one slipped on the moist rock. The others tried to save her, but she fell screaming into the darkness. They heard her 'strike and strike again, and all was still.' A rescue party was unable to reach the bottom of the well and efforts to find the maiden were abandoned." To prove the story true, the well was discovered, and there was the skeleton of the maiden. Dr. Merriam declared: "The body had not moved from the spot where the girl crashed against the solid stone immediately under the opening. Only the bones and a film of black mould remained. Here and there a beginning crystal of stalagmite gleamed in the dark covering, but the lapse of time had not been great enough to allow the lime deposited from dripping water to form a complete shroud. . . . Scattered about, wherever we looked, were the skulls and parts of skeletons of many animals, some so deeply covered with lime as almost to merge with the floor. The mountain lion at the foot of the ladder was heavily encased and cemented in the rock. Near the skeleton of the maiden was a large skull with gracefully curving horns. No head like it had been known to man before. Close by lay another creature with wide-sweeping, oxlike horns—a type of animal then seen for the first time. Across the cave was the perfect skull of a bear, incrusted and cemented to the floor. No human had known this type alive or dead. Spread before us was a veritable museum of ancient life, including also deer, squirrel, porcupine, raccoon, fox, rabbit, and many others. . . . The remains we saw . . . represented a stage in ancient life of America long antedating the fauna now ranging over mountains and valleys of northern California. . . . The scant traces of original material covering the skeleton of the Indian maiden, and the incomplete lime incrustation upon the bones, indicated that entrance of the girl into the cave had been at a very recent period compared with that of the strange creatures among whose heavily incrusted skeletons she had come to rest.

This miracle book of the past may be a bit unusual. But in the national parks and many other untouched areas in the United States are to be found records of past life which excite the imagination and lift the mists which have enshrouded the long-past ages of life upon this Earth. These signs of comparatively recent human and animal tragedies were read just as John Muir read the signs of the far-more-ancient glaciers carving the walls of Yosemite and other Sierra valleys.

Sigurd Olson, writing in a recent issue of American Forests, has made a plea for the wilderness. Drawing on his personal experiences, he has told us: "As a guide in the primitive lake regions of the Hudson's Bay watershed, I have lived with men from every walk of life, have learned to know them more intimately than their closest friends at home, their dreams, their hopes, their aspirations. I have seen them come from the cities down below, worried and sick at heart, and have watched them change under the stimulus of wilderness living into happy, carefree, joyous men, to whom the successful taking of a trout or the running of a rapids meant far more than the rise and fall in stocks and bonds. Ask these men what it is they have found and it would be difficult for them to say. This they do know, that hidden back there in the country beyond the steel and the traffic of towns is something real, something as definite as life itself, that for some reason or other is an answer and a challenge to civilization.

"At first, I accepted the change that was wrought with the matter of factness of any woodsman, but as the years went by I began to marvel at the infallibility of the wilderness formula. I came to see that here was a way of life as necessary and as deeply rooted in some men as the love of home and family, a vital cultural aspect of life which brought happiness and lasting content.

Continuing, Mr. Olson has remarked: "It is surprising how quickly a man sheds the habiliments of civilization and how soon he feels at home in the wilds."

The philosophy of the wilderness is one of sturdy self-reliance and not one of dependence, according to Mr. Olson. "Men have found at last that there is a penalty for too much comfort and ease, a penalty of lassitude and inertia and the frustrated feeling that goes with unreality." Mr. Olson would not disturb the peace of those who are content with life as they find it—"the picnickers and the strollers, and for them are highways and gravelled trails and country clubs. For them scenic vistas of the wild from the shelter of broad and cool verandas." But for those who "hunger and thirst" for the wilderness as a means of "escape from the perplexing problems of everyday life and freedom from the tyranny of wires, bells, schedules and pressing responsibilities," there is a reward in "peace of mind and relaxation," and "with this escape comes perspective. Far from the towns and all they denote, engrossed in their return to the old habits of wilderness living, men begin to wonder if the speed and pressure they have left are not a little senseless. . . . I believe that here is a sensation born of perspective that most men know in any wilderness. Whenever it comes, men are conscious of a unity with the primal forces of creation and all life that swiftly annihilates the feeling of futility, frustration and unreality. When men realize that they are on their own, that if they are to be sheltered and fed, and, what is more, returned to civilization, they must depend entirely on their own ingenuity, everything they do assumes a tremendous importance. . . . Life soon develops a new and fascinating angle and days which to the uninitiated may seem humdrum or commonplace are filled with the adventure of living for its own sake."

Mr. Olson realizes that the whole world cannot come back to primitive living, but he advocates for a short time each year that city dwellers repair "not necessarily to the great wildernesses of the Arctic or the Canadian lakes, but to some wild part of the country which has not yet been entirely caught up in some scheme of exploitation or development."

We must realize, with Mr. Olson, that the greater part of the wilderness is gone, but in North America we do yet possess a rich estate in wilderness if we are only wise enough to salvage it.

In the national parks are many "oddities" of Nature, such as are found in Yellowstone, many spectacular scenes, such as the Grand Canyon of the Colorado, which draw to them great crowds of sightseers and which will remain popular until the end of time, but there are also in the national parks great unspoiled areas penetrated only by trail or completely free from the scars of man. These are precious possessions. But they are all too limited. There are many more wilderness areas useful principally for their inspirational and stabilizing effect on mankind, which should be brought into the parks, where they will be safe from the pressure of commercial exploitation.

In the past we have had far too modest ideas of the areas which should be set aside and protected for national parks. The existing parks are often too circumscribed to protect the native wildlife. For wilderness consists of far more than an area in which trees are not cut and roads are not built. It comprises the entire plant and animal life in what our scientists now call a biotic unit. That is no true wilderness which is so small that the animals may stray carelessly across the border where they may be shot down by the predatory hunter. The true wilderness must be large enough to protect its game as well as its forests and streams and ground cover. It must be large enough to serve a considerable number of people and yet give them a sense of distance from the inhabited places of the earth and from each other.

We have thought in too limited terms. Before it is too late we should see that the national parks which belong to all the people, not only take care of their owners and stockholders who travel along the paved highway to see what can be seen from a car window, but also meet the need of the urge for the primitive which many of our people inherit from their recent ancestors and long to indulge. Perhaps if these areas are numerous enough and large enough to serve our people without crowding, they may offer a promise of uplifting and prolonging our civilization and culture.

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Last Updated: 18-Nov-2009