National Park Service: The First 75 Years
Biographical Vignettes

George Wright

                                          by Bob Linn

George Wright

George Melendez Wright was born in San Francisco, California, June 20, 1904. At the University of California, Berkeley, he majored in forestry. In 1927 George Wright joined the National Park Service as assistant park naturalist at Yosemite, serving under Naturalist Carl P. Russell. George was married to Bernice (Bee) Ray of Allison, Iowa, on February 2, 1931. While at Yosemite in 1927-28, George Wright and Carl Russell often discussed wildlife conservation in the national parks. Deer in Yosemite Valley, it seemed, were too abundant and tame. Cougars and other large predators were believed to be very scarce or nonexistent. Black bears raided campgrounds for food and were fed garbage each evening. But the National Park Service had no program devoted to the necessary field research on which better wildlife conservation and interpretation could be eased.

In 1929 George proposed that there be established a wildlife survey program for the National Park Service, which would be funded by him personally until the program's value could be demonstrated. Director Horace Albright approved the proposal and strongly supported it. Preliminary surveys of the status of wildlife and the identification of urgent wildlife problems in the national parks began in 1929. In each park, effort was made to determine original and current wildlife conditions, to identify causes of adverse changes, and to recommend actions that would restore park wildlife to its original status.

In 1932 the department published a report on the survey's preliminary findings and recommendations, entitled Fauna of the National Parks of the United States, a Preliminary Survey of Faunal Relations in National Parks. In 1934 George, with his wife Bee and their two little daughters, spent several months in Washington, D.C., working with Assistant Director Harold C. Bryant to strengthen the research program in the Wildlife Division, Branch of Research and Education. That summer, the National Park Service was assigned responsibility for preparing a report on Recreational Use of Land in the United States. Wright was designated leader of the project, and the National Park Service gave it highest priority. Many of the areas later established as local, state, and national parks were recommended in that report and nationwide planning for public parks and recreation areas was strengthened.

In February 1936, George was designated as a member of a commission to formulate plans for the establishment of international parks, reserves, and refuges along the international boundary between Mexico and the United States. Soon after, George Wright and Roger Toll, superintendent of Yellowstone, were returning from Big Bend National Park, near Deming, New Mexico, when an oncoming car blew a tire and crashed head-on into their car. They both died as a result of the accident. The program that George Wright began with his own funds institutionally established the acquisition of adequate information with which to manage national parks.

From National Park Service: The First 75 Years

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Last Modified: Mar 27 2017 12:25:00 pm EDT

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