Posts Tagged ‘Gifford Pinchot’

Tuolumne Meadows Parsons’ Lodge Caretakers Hugh Sakols And Mara Dale

March 20th, 2012

Photographer Hugh Sakols And His Wife Mara Dale Work As Summer Caretakers Of Parsons’ Lodge And The Historic McCauley Cabin In Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park…

Environmental Educators And Back Country Mountaineers Hugh Sakols and his wife Mara Dale, Each Summer Since 2008, Have Honored And Educated About Early Conservation Leaders, While Acting As Volunteer Docents, Leading Interpretive Walks, Caretaking The Sierra Club Parsons’ Memorial Lodge And Staying In The Rustic McCauley Cabin, Much As Ardis And Philip Hyde Did In The Summer Of 1949. On This Land, Next To Soda Springs In Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park, John Muir And Other Pioneer Conservationists First Conceived The Sierra Club.

"Lenticular Clouds and Lembert Dome," Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada High Country, California, copyright 2010 by Hugh Sakols.

(View the photograph large: “Lenticular Clouds and Lembert Dome.”)

Hugh Sakols first started exploring Yosemite National Park on a backpacking trip when he was seventeen years old. He started seriously photographing the Park after working as a Yosemite Institute instructor teaching environmental education. He later assisted photography workshops taught by Michael Frye through the Ansel Adams Gallery. Today he continues to explore the Yosemite back country, whether in summer or winter. He now lives just outside Yosemite National Park in El Portal, California, where he teaches elementary school during the school year. Hugh Sakol’s photographs have been used by the National Park Service, Yosemite Conservancy, Yosemite Institute, and have appeared at the Yosemite Renaissance. He has converted almost entirely to digital photography, now using a Nikon D300, whereas before he often used a Bronica SQA medium format film camera and a Horseman VH-R large format View Camera.

Summer In Tuolumne Meadows By Hugh Sakols

Over the last four summers, starting in 2008, my wife Mara, and I have worked as National Park Service Volunteers. We are summer caretakers for Parsons’ Memorial Lodge and the historic McCauley Cabin in Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park. We are lucky enough pull this off and continue working at our “real jobs” as Educators in Yosemite National Park.

Just like the Southern Miwok people have done for thousands of years, Mara and I migrate upslope, where at 8600 ft the meadows are green, the temperatures are generally cool, and the views are striking.  Tuolumne Meadows is a glacially scoured sub alpine landscape that is the heart of Yosemite’s high country and part of what John Muir referred to as the Range of Light. To learn more about John Muir and the Sierra Nevada, see the blog post, “Philip Hyde’s Tribute To John Muir.”

It was here at Soda Springs that John Baptist Lembert, namesake of Lembert Dome, spent his summers on a 160 acre homestead where he raised Angora goats and became an expert on local butterflies. John Baptist Lembert’s only friends in the summer were sheepherders, many of whom were Basque. At this time Tuolumne Meadows was essentially a land grab. Reportedly, in the late 1860s there were thousands of grazing sheep that later John Muir described as “hooved locust.” After John Lembert’s death (he was murdered in El Portal), the McCauley brothers acquired the land where they grazed cattle and built a log cabin. The McCauley Cabin now is a park service residence, where Mara and I live come summer.

Honoring The Place Where Western Conservation Began

Hugh Sakols And Mara Dale In Front Of The Historical McCauley Cabin, Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada, California, copyright 2011 by Hugh Sakols. Self portrait.

While at the McCauley Cabin, Mara and I have some big shoes to fill.  It was here that the western conservation movement began. John Muir saw the commercialism that was taking over Yosemite Valley and dreaded what would happen to Tuolumne Meadows. In 1889 Robert Underwood Johnson convinced John Muir to write two articles for a popular East Coast magazine. In one article John Muir described the beauty of Yosemite, and in another article John Muir proposed the need for Yosemite’s preservation. Only a year later, Abraham Lincoln signed a bill to establish Yosemite as the country’s first national preserve. Soon after Yosemite became a national park.

In 1912, the Sierra Club bought the McCauley brother’s land in hopes that it would be saved from the building of hotels, stables and other improvements. The land around Soda Springs with Parsons’ Lodge and the McCauley Cabin on it, the Sierra Club eventually seeded to the National Park Service in 1973. During the Sierra Club’s ownership, this remarkably beautiful spot brought club members together for mountain adventures and a place to discuss the protection of wild lands, many of which are now national parks. The most famous early battle was probably over the damming of Hetch Hetchy Valley inside Yosemite National Park. Sierra Club leaders such as Edward Taylor Parsons, William E. Colby, and John Muir fought tooth and nail, but eventually lost the battle. Interestingly, the man Forest Service people call their first environmentalist, Gifford Pinchot, was in favor of damming Hetch Hetchy. Gifford Pinchot opposed John Muir in the ongoing public debate over building a dam in Hetch Hetchy Valley within Yosemite National Park around the turn of the century. In 1915 Parsons’ Lodge was built as a mountain headquarters and a place to reflect the work of forward thinking Sierra Club leaders.

A year after Parsons’ Lodge was built, Ansel Adams made his first trip to Yosemite National Park. After that he quickly became part of the Sierra Club where he first worked as a custodian at the LeConte Memorial and later served on the board of directors. The Sierra Club over time indoctrinated Ansel Adams to Yosemite’s High Country and the importance of preserving wilderness. This was the beginning of a close relationship between landscape photographers and conservationists.

Conservation, The Environmental Movement And Landscape Photography

Beginning in the late 1930s and 1940s, Ansel Adams and wilderness photographer Cedric Wright both contributed photographs to conservation campaigns. However, it wasn’t until 1951, when the Sierra Club sent photographer Philip Hyde on the first photography assignment ever for an environmental cause. The Sierra Club sent Philip Hyde, who had been a photography student of Ansel Adams in San Francisco, to Dinosaur National Monument to help prevent the building of two dams, again within the National Park System. The battle over Dinosaur, many consider the birth of the modern environmental movement because it combined the conservation ideals of John Muir and other turn of the century conservation leaders with the hard hitting tactics of David Brower and other environmentalists of the 1950s and 1960s. For more about David Brower see the blog post, “David Brower: Photographer And Environmentalist 1.” The Dinosaur battle redeemed the loss of Hetch Hetchy to the extent that it reversed the precedent set for such development within a national park. Read about the first photography assignment for an environmental cause in the blog post, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 1.” Activists are still working to remove Hetch Hetchy Dam and restore Yosemite Valley’s sister valley to its original pristine state.

In the decades that followed the Dinosaur battle, Philip Hyde, worked with the Sierra Club, National Audubon, Wilderness Society and other environmental groups, contributing his photographs to more environmental campaigns than any other photographer of his time. David Brower, Sierra Club Executive Director and head of the publishing program, used Philip Hyde’s widely published photographs in Sierra Club Books to help save such places as the Grand Canyon, the California Redwoods, the North Cascades and many other national treasures. The Sierra Club Books Exhibit Format Series, not only popularized coffee table photography books and the modern environmental movement, but paved the way for photographers to be able make a living from such publications. Photographs from this time period helped spark the 1960s interest in getting back to nature and helped instigate a backpacking boom in the 1970s.

Philip Hyde’s first exposure to vast wilderness also occurred in Yosemite National Park in 1938. Philip Hyde at age 16, joined a Boy Scout backpacking trip from Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite Valley. To read this history see the blog post, “Lake Tenaya And Yosemite National Park.” For some years afterward, Philip Hyde visited and backpacked in Yosemite National Park until World War II. After the War, Philip Hyde studied photography under Ansel Adams. For more on Ansel Adams’ innovative photography department, see the blog post, “Photography’s Golden Era 6.” During the summer 1949 break from photography school, Ansel Adams helped Ardis and Philip Hyde land the caretakers job at Parsons’ Lodge in Tuolumne Meadows. Ardis and Philip Hyde stayed in the rustic McCauley cabin while Ardis Hyde studied for her teaching credential and Philip Hyde gleefully photographed. Future blog posts will share more about the Hyde’s Summer in Tuolumne Meadows. That summer Philip Hyde met David Brower briefly in Tuolumne Meadows, as the Sierra Club leader brought a Yosemite High Trip through the Soda Springs area. Philip Hyde and David Brower were more formally introduced later by Ansel Adams, which led to David Brower inviting Philip Hyde to act as official Sierra Club photographer for the 1950 Summer High Trip, one year before the battle over Dinosaur National Monument began to take the national stage. Read about the Sierra High Trip in the blog post, “Cedric Wright And Philip Hyde On The 1950 Sierra High Trip.”

Tuolumne Meadows And Landscape Photography Today

"Golden Reflection, Gaylor Lake" Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada High Country, California, copyright 2008 by Hugh Sakols.

(See the photograph large click: “Golden Reflection, Gaylor Lake.”)

Understanding the history and traditions of Tuolumne Meadows has helped me to realize why I am so intrigued by landscape photography.  First I have always felt the need to venture into wilderness. Second, I hope my photography advocates the importance of wilderness preservation and the complexity of nature. And third, I want to uncover Yosemite National Park as a place I have spent years exploring and observing.

While at the McCauley Cabin, some of our tasks include taking care of Parsons Memorial Lodge and assisting presenters who come each summer.  Also, I lead weekly photography walks while my wife teaches Junior Rangers.  Together each Sunday we serve coffee in the campground where we are able to talk with a very diverse group of visitors. It is not uncommon to have gritty looking backpackers who are passing through on their way along the Pacific Crest Trail, a computer geek from the Silicon Valley, and a family looking for the falsely posted church service, all together around a single camp fire.The one thing we all have in common is our love for Tuolumne and of course, caffeine. It is during these informal programs that Mara and I try to instill the values of our predecessors. We remind the visitors of the challenges Yosemite National Park faces in finding a balance between preservation and access. Furthermore, we celebrate Yosemite’s timelessness by enjoying the rustic nature of places such as Tuolumne Meadows.

When I am scheduled in the Yosemite Guide, I lead a Monday morning photography walk for the general public.  During the walk I quickly go over the basics of composition, exposure, and quality of light.  Along the way I will pull out prints I have made that illustrate these concepts and show views from the trail that I have collected over the past summers. It is fun to pass them around and not worry about people handling them.  I’ve even dropped a few on the trail. I explain that for me the end product of an image is the print, and it is always fun to carry a few in a box to share with others.

Imparting Landscape Photography’s History And Significance To Yosemite National Park’s Visitors

Beyond the basics of photography, it is more important to help visitors understand what landscape photography represents today and how it co-evolved with the creation of national parks and organizations like the Sierra Club. Early photographs have documented changes in the landscape over time whether it be a sandstone tower that is now covered in water in Glen Canyon, a 1860s view of Yosemite Valley that shows a greater abundance of black oaks, or an 1870s view of thousands of sheep grazing in Tuolumne Meadows. Hopefully modern landscape photographs will someday represent our successes, failures and our human need to connect with nature.  I think understanding this tradition will help fellow photographers be more cognizant of their own impact in the park.

I also take the opportunity to discuss our increasing detachment from the natural world which could have alarming effects on the future of our natural heritage. Today our new generation of young people spend more and more of their free time glued to a monitor and show little interest in the out of doors. In fact many children do not know how to play outside unless they are playing organized sports.  Today most Yosemite visitors walk a quarter mile or less from the road. Increasingly I find visitors who don’t quite know what to do in a place like Tuolumne Meadows. For these visitors photography is a perfect way to have fun, become observant, and connect.

I am not sure how long we will continue to live in Tuolumne Meadows during our summers. At some point Mara and I want to have more time to explore areas of the park that take more than a long weekend to find.  However, having had this experience makes my photography all the more meaningful.

June 2, 2012 Exhibition At The Ansel Adams Gallery

Local artists including Hugh Sakols will show their work at the Ansel Adams Gallery on June 2nd.  All proceeds will go to Yosemite Park El Portal School.

What makes your photography more meaningful? Have you been to Yosemite or explored its back country? In what place or places do you enjoy getting off the beaten path?

The Oregon Cascades’ Impact On Conservation

June 14th, 2010

The National Implications of Land Wars Over the Oregon Cascade Mountain Forests

Ardis Hyde On Horseback With Packer Tom McAllister From Portland At Waldo Lake, Oregon Cascades, Oregon, 1969 by Philip Hyde.

Heated land use debates in the 1950s and 1960s concerning the forests of the Cascade Mountains in the Northwestern United States, helped define the future of wilderness protection nationwide. While the battle over the dams in Dinosaur National Monument took the national stage sooner, launched the modern environmental movement and set a precedent that would keep industrialists out of the National Park System; the land battles over the lush forests in the Northwestern U.S. began around the same time and cannot be underestimated in their national impact.

Decisions in Oregon and Washington State affected forest management policy in the National Forest System more than the National Park System. Nonetheless, the resulting conflicts and their outcomes played a significant role in the eventual forging of the Wilderness Act in Congress and provided a blueprint for grassroots environmental campaigns all over the country, particularly in the West where wilderness came under the greatest threat of desecration by resource exploitation.

The main purpose of the post-World War II Forest Service was to supply timber. The policy of multiple use often translated into allowing various uses of public lands, as long as they could co-exist with logging. Lumber companies kept pressure on the Forest Service to provide a guaranteed supply of logs. “An era of stewardship of the nation’s public forests gave way to an emphasis on rapid extraction of timber resources,” wrote Kevin R. Marsh in Drawing Lines in the Forest: Creating Wilderness Areas in the Pacific Northwest. “This spawned a grassroots movement that ultimately challenged the managerial power of the Forest Service.” It was 10 years in the making, but the Wilderness Act of 1964 finally opened the process to citizen participation, giving the public a say in the drawing of wilderness boundaries. Before 1964, small citizen groups had less power, but after 1964, the two opposing forces of industry and conservation shaped the Wilderness System.

Cascades Wilderness Battles Helped Conservationists Tune Their Message To Become The Wilderness Act

In the Cascade Mountain Range, a string of volcanic peaks and up thrust rocky crags extending from Northern California through Oregon and Washington and into Canada, many groups played a role—the U. S. Forest Service, the timber industry, recreationists and environmentalists. The opposing forces consisted of timber interests and the Forest Service on one side and local groups such as the Obsidians and Chemeketans on the other side, often supported by national environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club, National Audubon Society and the Wilderness Society. When enough national outcry supported the protection of an area, Congressional Law made it official but not without a tremendous fight and wrangling in and out of Congress right up to the final signing as in the case of North Cascades National Park or Olympic National Park. Needless to say, merely obtaining wilderness status for many areas engendered a terrific political and often legal war.

Originally in 1893, President Grover Cleveland established the Cascade Forest Reserve encompassing nearly 5 million acres, from Mt. Hood in Northern Oregon to Crater Lake in Southern Oregon, to limit the cutting of mountain forests and to protect watersheds. Aldo Leopold, author of A Sand County Almanac, a pro-wilderness polemic, set a national example as his worked within the Southwest agency of the Forest Service to found the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico in 1924. Forest Service leaders such as Arthur Carhart in Colorado and Elers Koch in Idaho thwarted the inroads of “progress” into wilderness and fostered the agency atmosphere in line with Gifford Pinchot’s vision from years earlier. These new leaders in the 1920s reformed management practices and created Primitive Areas in the National Forests, which limited but did not end industrial use. “The Forest Service would later argue that these boundaries were not meant to be permanent,” wrote Kevin R. Marsh.

Lumbering slowed significantly during the Great Depression, but took off again during and after the War. In the Willamette National Forest, the volume of logs cut more than quadrupled between 1945 and 1955 and continued to increase for decades. The Forest Service began to reclassify many primitive areas without any input from the locals. Frequented by hikers, fishers and small boaters, Mt. Jefferson Primitive Area had some of the highest recreation levels of any wilderness in the Northwest, second in Oregon only to the Three Sisters Wilderness to the south. The Three Sisters Wilderness lies directly east of Eugene Oregon, a progressive college town that participated fully in the 1960s anti-establishment, anti-war “revolution.”

Conservation Strategy From The Cascade Mountains Became A Blueprint For Local Efforts Nationwide

In 1954, when the Forest Service proposed reclassifying the Three Sisters Primitive Area, a widely divergent range of local hiking clubs, conservationists, scientists and social liberals, began to evolve over the next few decades into a powerful grassroots movement in Oregon and across the nation. Since 1951, when the Forest Service had tried to pass off shrinking the primitive area as beneficial to the local economy, Carl Onthank and his wife Ruth Onthank, Ruth Hopson and other local activists rallied supporters to form the Friends of the Three Sisters Wilderness. Karl Onthank, dean of students at the University of Oregon, described the leaders of the new group as “scientists who know something of our Cascade Mountains and are interested in seeing a little of them preserved for future enjoyment in their natural state and for scientific study.”

Friends of Three Sisters became an example for later site-specific grassroots campaigns. At a 1955 Forest Service hearing, local groups from all over Oregon such as The Mazamas, the Obsidians, chapters of the Sierra Club, National Audubon Society groups, Wilderness Society leaders, the Oregon Federation of Garden Clubs, the Mountaineers, Olympic Park Associates, the Izaak Walton League Eugene Chapter, the AFL and CIO unions and many others rallied against reducing the Three Sisters Wilderness. The Forest Service expected a one day hearing but had to carry it into a second days when a total of 79 speakers wanted their turn. Some voiced concern for retaining recreational space, some for not allowing wilderness to be reduced over and over as in other states, some wanted to protect areas for scientific study, and others thought logging interests could make more efficient use of the existing public and private timber lands.

On the second day of hearings, Howard Zahniser, executive director of the Wilderness Society arrived and testified with hints of the language from the Wilderness Act that would not pass Congress until 1964, but that he had already begun to draft in 1955. The Three Sisters campaign was pivotal to the national cause of wilderness preservation as it would set a precedent for whether people had a say when Federal lands were reduced to benefit private industry. David Brower, Executive Director of the Sierra Club corresponded with Karl Onthank to stay informed of developments. David Brower and other Sierra Club leaders contributed to the campaign by writing letters to the media and leaders in Washington DC, just as Ruth and Karl Onthank and their associates were doing.

Disperate Conservation Campaigns Organized Into The Modern Environmental Movement

Nationally the tide was high for conservation as the wilderness ideals of John Muir and Henry David Thoreau were hitched to a new environmental movement that employed the media, Congressional lobbying, letter writing campaigns, the courts, full-page newspaper ads and grass root organizing. At first it the purpose was wilderness protection, but later environmental campaigns strived to limit water and air pollution and other environmental destruction brought on by land development, growth and a booming industrial age.

In 1955, The Sierra Club published This is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country and Its Magic Rivers, edited by Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Wallace Stegner with photographs by Philip Hyde, Martin Litton and others. A copy of This is Dinosaur landed on the desk of every Congressman just as they were deciding how to vote on the Colorado River Storage Project Bill. David Brower testified in Congressional hearings against the dams and the Sierra Club ran full page newspaper ads warning Congress not to endorse a hotly opposed expensive project in an election year. The new brand of environmentalism worked. The bill passed Congress without the Dinosaur Dams and with a phrase added barring dams in national parks or monuments.

Following this national land conservation victory, Three Sisters activists communicated their position with a growing effectiveness that surprised the Forest Service, but as the struggle went on, the Forest Service defined the debate and wilderness advocates had to stay on the defensive. By 1957, the Friends of Three Sisters had lost the battle and the Forest Service went through with their original planned boundaries. The loss confirmed the fears of wilderness proponents across the country but solidified determination to push for a Wilderness Act to prevent “having this kind of battle on every one of the primitive and the limited areas,” said Karl Onthank. Oregon senators responded by sponsoring the Wilderness Act and helping Howard Zahniser and others draft it. The Forest Service decision on the Three Sisters Wilderness, swung support toward the Wilderness Act but years of conflict over it were yet to come.

Future Blog Posts share the story of the making of North Cascades National Park. For parts of the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness Area skirmish, see the blog post “Oregon Cascades Conservation: Mount Jefferson Wilderness Area,” which touches on the interrelated role of Philip Hyde’s landscape photography. For a closer view of Ardis and Philip Hyde in action see the blog post, “North Cascades And Mt. Jefferson Travel Log.”

A River Will Run Through It

February 23rd, 2010

Savage Rapids Dam on the Rogue River, during removal looking upstream. Courtesy of the Bureau of Reclamation.

Grants Pass, Oregon–The momentum continues for removing dams and freeing America’s wild rivers. Dams on the Rogue River and Klamath River in Oregon, Hetch Hetchy Valley on the Tuolumne River in Yosemite National Park, California and Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River in Arizona and Utah, are just a few of the targets of dam demolition campaigns.

Nearly 90 years ago the Grants Pass Irrigation District built Savage Rapids Dam on the Rogue River to provide irrigation water for nearby farms. Farmers benefited; fish did not. Fish ladders were installed for coho and chinook salmon and steelhead, but they did not change the dams status as the biggest fish killer on the river.

A Portland, Oregon organization known as Waterwatch, spearheaded campaigns to remove Savage Rapids Dam, Gold Ray Dam, Gold Hill Dam, Elk Creek Dam and Lost Creek Dam from the Rogue River, historically Oregon’s second largest salmon spawning watershed behind the Klamath River. Projects are also in motion on the Klamath River that will eventually set the mighty river completely free, supported by the Yurok, Karuk and Klamath Tribes.

River ecosystems are the basis of all life on Earth. Not only do dams kill fish, they destroy other native species, increase the negative effects of drought as opposed to alleviating these as often publicized, increase the water’s salinity, encourage non-native trees and shrubs, remove sandbars, marshes and other habitat for small land and marine animals and waterfowl, waste more water than they save, especially in arid climates, and often lose money as they fail to produce the levels of hydro-power projected. Technologies have recently been refined that allow for hydro-power to be generated without damming rivers; by merely diverting a portion of the flow through large pipes into turbines.

Savage Rapids Dam on the Rogue River, former site immediately after breaching, looking downstream. Courtesy of the Bureau of Reclamation.

Waterwatch staff fearlessly decided three years ago that Savage Rapids Dam must go. Demolition began in October 2006, the dam was completely breached in October 2009 and one of the largest dam removal projects in the country is now almost complete. To get the project going, Waterwatch representatives argued about water rights, rallied fishermen and kayakers, and they got in touch with Earthjustice attorneys Mike Sherwood and Claudia Polsky. Earthjustice, a spinoff from the Sierra Club, started as the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund in 1971, and changed its name to Earthjustice in 1997. Mike Sherwood and Claudia Polsky recently succeeded in gaining Endangered Species Act protection for the coho salmon. They were thereby able to charge the dam operators with illegally harming a protected species. Eventually all parties agreed that the dam would come out and be replaced with pumps that divert water straight out of the river for farms, with no impoundment necessary.

American Rivers, based in Washington DC, “has led a national effort to restore rivers through the demolition of dams that no longer make sense,” said American Rivers promotional materials. “The organization’s expertise and advocacy have contributed to the removal of more than 200 dams nationwide.” American Rivers released a statement last month that in 2009, 58 dams in 16 states, were taken down.

“In the 1950s and ’60s, a dam went up in the United States every six minutes to generate electricity, provide irrigation water and protect against floods,” wrote Matthew Preusch in the New York Times. “As a result, there are an estimated 75,000 aging dams blocking rivers large and small today.”

Hetch Hetchy Valley, Field of Stumps, Yosemite National Park, 1955, by Philip Hyde, who discovered that the water level was very low and drove straight to the Sierra Club Headquarters in San Francisco to tell David Brower. David Brower dropped everything, grabbed his movie camera and they rushed back to photograph and film. To this day Restore Hetch Hetchy uses the David Brower film and Philip Hyde photographs in their campaign to restore this paradise lost. The Sacramento Bee won a Pulitzer Prize for their series covering the Hetch Hetchy debate. Philip Hyde's widely published photograph appeared on PBS Television's Jim Lehrer News Hour in a segment about the controversy in 2008.

A California group, Restore Hetch Hetchy, continues to fight for the restoral of Yosemite National Park’s Hetch Hetchy Valley. Hetch Hetchy is a sister valley to Yosemite and at one time approached Yosemite Valley’s beauty, with waterfalls, rich grasslands and wildlife, verdant forests, and the Tuolumne River lazily winding through the center. However, after the 1906 Earthquake, San Francisco proposed damming Hetch Hetchy Valley to form a reliable water supply. John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club, led the opposition to the dam. Many say he died of a broken heart after the O’Shaughnessy Dam flooded Hetch Hetchy Valley. Gifford Pinchot, leader of the U. S. Forest Service, who many now claim was an environmentalist, was one of the leading proponents of the dam. Ironically, modern studies show that San Francisco could obtain the same amount of water with less expense downstream.

Hetch Hetchy was the first and last time any agency built a dam on National Park lands. A coalition of environmental organizations, led by the Sierra Club and David Brower, successfully defeated two dams proposed in Dinosaur National Monument in the early 1950s and lobbied Congress to pass legislation that strengthened laws preventing such development in the National Park System. However, to save Dinosaur National Monument, the coalition of environmental groups had to endorse the damming of Glen Canyon as a better alternative. Few people had ever seen Glen Canyon. By the time wilderness proponents Eliot Porter, Philip Hyde and other Sierra Club landscape photographers published spectacular images lamenting the loss of one of the world’s most beautiful wild places in the early 1960s, it was too late. The Bureau of Reclamation had already closed the gates on the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell had begun to consume the canyon wilderness.

Glen Canyon Dam and "Lake" Powell, Utah and Arizona. Creatas Photos Royalty Free Photograph.

Today, the granddaddy dam removal proposal of them all is to redeem Glen Canyon and make it a National Park. The Glen Canyon Institute has piloted this endeavor since 1996 with support from David Brower, Philip Hyde and currently Philip Hyde Photography. Read Philip Hyde’s expression of grief over the loss of Glen Canyon and part of the Escalante Wilderness in the blog post, “Glen Canyon Lament By Philip Hyde.” “Lake” Powell, or Powell Reservoir to be more accurate, has drawn down over 100 feet in droughts several times and reached an all-time low in 2003. The reservoir was only completely full for a short time in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The sandstone bedrock leaks more water than the net storage for irrigation and the “lake” surface evaporates more water every year than the “lake” holds. Glen Canyon Dam has prevented the Colorado River from the periodic flooding that forms sandbars vital to the survival and propagation of plant and wildlife species downriver in Grand Canyon National Park. In contrast, small daily fluctuations due to power generating releases have carried away most of the sandbars and threatened endangered species, disrupting the natural ecosystem of Grand Canyon National Park. Reportedly, the soft sandstone that Glen Canyon Dam is anchored in, nearly failed in 1983 after a flood on the upper Colorado River. Glen Canyon Dam is aging and its lifespan is estimated at as little as 100 years by dam removal proponents and 500-700 years by the Bureau of Reclamation. The heavy-laden Colorado River and San Juan River are rapidly filling Powell Reservoir with silt that decreases electricity generation and can interfere with Glen Canyon Dam’s proper operation. A breach of Glen Canyon Dam could cause a floodwave that would top the downstream Hoover Dam by as much as 230 feet, resulting in a potential megatsunami disaster downstream. Much more on Glen Canyon Dam, “Lake” Powell, Edward Abbey and the The Monkey Wrench Gang in future blog posts. See also the blog posts, “Glen Canyon Lament 1 By Philip Hyde,” “Glen Canyon Portfolio 1” and “Glen Canyon Portfolio 2.” For more about who Edward Abbey was read the blog post, “Who Was Edward Abbey?

References:
Earthjustice Press Release.
The Portland Orgonian, Oregon Environmental News, “The Rogue River Dam Removal Moves Forward”
Waterwatch
American Rivers
New York Times, “Dams Go Down, Uncorking Rivers For Kayakers”
Restore Hetch Hetchy
Glen Canyon Institute
Scientists Struggle to Preserve Grand Canyon Wildlife