Challenge of the Big Trees
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Chapter Eight:
Controlling Development: How Much Is Too Much?

DURING THE FIRST SIXTY-FIVE YEARS of their existence, Sequoia and Kings Canyon, as well as the remainder of the national park system, evolved through three stages. The early years were difficult and confused as goals and policies remained unclear. The parks had received little money and few employees to define and defend the reserves. The establishment of the National Park Service under Stephen Mather and Horace Albright initiated a second phase which emphasized development of recreation and visitor amenities. That phase lasted through the decades of the twenties and thirties, culminating in the spectacular achievements of the Civilian Conservation Corps. The third stage overlapped with this period of development and resulted from it. Questions of the propriety of recreational activities and their infrastructure began to crop up even as newer and more ambitious plans were submitted. Were park managers living up to their congressional charge of preserving the resources unimpaired for the future? These thoughts heralded a series of moves aimed at both studying and controlling use and abuse.

This might have stimulated an uninterrupted evolution toward improved funding, more scientific management, and a philosophy that emphasized preservation. However, World War II brought the parks and their management to a catastrophic decline which in turn sparked a virtual repetition of these three stages. The Park Service budget had been cut more than 75 percent, and during and after the war, the park system wallowed in low funding and grudging congressional attention for more than a decade and a half. To correct these problems, the Park Service undertook a dramatic, highly publicized program of infrastructural development. Once this program had caught attention from the public and dollars from lawmakers, the Park Service revived questions of philosophy and resource management. This cycle of retreat, renewal, and reappraisal further strengthened the Park Service within the mass of government agencies competing for funds, and again moved it toward the scientific, ecology-oriented management that prevails today.

© Photo by Lawrence Ormsby


Challenge of the Big Trees
©1990, Sequoia Natural History Association
dilsaver-tweed/chap8.htm — 12-Jul-2004