Nifty Tidbits:

Originally printed in the April 23, 2003 edition of the Illinois Valley News.

There are few people in the United States today who are not grateful that Crater Lake, Yellowstone, Yosemite, and other national parks have been protected as much as possible. It was small groups of conservationists and environmentalists who had the foresight to push Congress to create a special preservation category in the vast reservoir of public lands. Now in the year 2003, this vast reservoir of land seems to be shrinking fast while the population of preservation groups is expanding.
The Sierra Club has been one of the groups striving to protect our natural resources.
This group has always tried to have people experience the wilderness and natural features, and to educate us about current concerns. On May 28, 1892 the Sierra Club was organized in San Francisco, CA and John Muir was elected as its first president. Since 1876 John Muir had been urging the federal government to establish some conservation policies.
Muir was born in Scotland on April 21, 1838 and moved to Wisconsin with his family when he was eleven years old. After high school he attended the University of Wisconsin and wanted to work with machines and make mechanical inventions. He did work in a broom stick factory for awhile and then an accident almost cost him the use of an eye. After being kept in a dark room for three months, while his eye healed, his goals changed and he wanted to see nature. So in 1867 he packed some clothes and a plant press on his back and started walking. At first, the Gulf of Mexico was his destination, then he moved east across the Appalachian Mountains and down the eastern seaboard to Key West, Florida. This wasn’t south enough so he worked on a boat to Cuba and tried to find a way to South America. When nothing was available he worked on an orange boat to New York where he found another boat going to California by way of Panama.
Walking from San Francisco to the Sierra Nevada Mountains brought him to Yosemite, the location of his dreams and his future success. Muir hated sheep: he called them “Locusts with Hooves”, but he got a job as a sheepherder so he could spend all year in the mountains. He searched for the ultimate experience: surviving a lightning storm on top of a mountain peak, enduring a high wind storm at the top of a tall pine tree, and finding active glaciers in the high Sierras. Muir became a writer and his books and articles begin to generate support to provide federal protection for Yosemite and other important natural wonders.
In 1880 he married and settled on a fruit farm in California but never lost his reverence for the mountains and he continued his writing as well. Numerous well known visitors were escorted in to Yosemite: such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Teddy Roosevelt. They added to his fame and effectiveness in generating political conservation projects. In 1908 Muir Woods National Monument was established in the coastal redwoods. John Muir died in 1914.
Through the efforts of Muir and countless others, the conservation projects, as well as preservation of natural wonders has continued. Today national parks are found in many countries of the world with state parks being formed in most states. Should new areas be added to these systems continually? The impact on occupations and essential needed resources must be carefully considered. Each new proposal should be locally analyzed and not forced into law by the demands of a few. The ability to compromise is a talent that should be encouraged in dealing with the public resources.