National Park Service: The First 75 Years
Biographical Vignettes
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J. Horace McFarland

                                          by Mary Shivers Culpin

J. Horace McFarland
(Courtesy of Pennsylvannia State Archives (1920) )

One of the earliest campaigners for a bureau of national parks, McFarland devoted most of his life toward the protection of natural areas. In addition to his dedication to the creation of a bureau, he actively worked towards the preservation of Niagara Falls and for roadside improvements. Over the years, he contributed many articles relating to the conservation field and to horticulture and, at one time, served as the editor for the "Beautiful America" department of Ladies Home Journal. His important influence on the creation of the National Park Service came from his leadership in the American Civic Association (1904-1924). He also served for many years as chairman of the State Art Commission for Pennsylvania, was a member and vice president of the National Municipal League (1912-1928), and was a member of the National Park Trust Board, appointed by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1935.

As a result of the Hetch Hetchy Dam controversy, Horace McFarland broke his alliance with Gifford Pinchot. He opposed Pinchot's plan to combine the national parks with the national forests and began his drive for a separate agency for the administration of national parks and monuments. McFarland, as representative of the American Civic Association and one of the few supporters of aesthetic conservation at President Theodore Roosevelt's Governors' Conference of 1908, became a diligent lobbyist for the establishment of an agency. The following year, 1909, he persuaded Secretary of the Interior Richard Ballinger and the new president, William Howard Taft, to support his cause. Ballinger included the request for such an agency in his annual report to the president in 1910. By 1911, with much effort and little progress toward legislation, McFarland convinced Secretary of the Interior Walter Fisher to convene a conference of Interior Department officials, superintendents of parks, concessioners, and others interested in the national parks. While many issues were discussed, McFarland's goal was for organized national support for the legislation to create an agency.

By 1915 and early 1916, he was part of a small group of men, which included Stephen Mather, Horace Albright. Robert Marshall, Robert Sterling Yard, California Congressmen John Raker and William Kent, Frederick Law Olmstead, Jr., and Richard Watrous, who met frequently to plan the political strategy to create the National Park Service and to protect the parks. After the successful establishment of the National Park Service, McFarland turned his efforts to the protection of parks. In his role as president of the American Civic Association, he was one of the most stalwart spokesmen opposing the first major threat to a national park — the proposed Fall River-Bechler water project in Yellowstone National Park.

From National Park Service: The First 75 Years


Last Modified: March 27 2017 03:00:00 pm EDT

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