Posts Tagged ‘Sunset Magazine’

Martin Litton: David Brower’s Conservation Conscience 2

October 7th, 2011

Martin Litton: Environmentalist, Conservationist, Sierra Club Director, Bush Pilot, River Guide, Hiker, Writer, Journalist, Visionary and Landscape Photographer

Continued from the blog post, “Martin Litton: David Brower’s Conservation Conscience 1.”

Chiaroscurro, Sun Through Fog, Avenue Of The Giants, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, California, copyright 1964 by Philip Hyde. First published in "The Last Redwoods: Photographs And Story Of A Vanishing Scenic Resource," by Francois Leydet with photographs by Philip Hyde and Martin Litton, in the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series.

See the photograph larger here: “Avenue Of The Giants, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, California.”

After seeing Martin Litton’s feature articles in The Los Angeles Times protesting proposed dams in Dinosaur National Monument, David Brower recruited the young journalist to join the Sierra Club and continue the fight against dam building and other wilderness degradation in earnest.

Martin Litton and Philip Hyde made the landscape photographs of Dinosaur National Monument that became the Sierra Club book, This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country And Its Magic Rivers with introduction and chapter one by Pulitzer Prize novelist Wallace Stegner. The controversy over the dams in Dinosaur National Monument, along with the first quality images of the area brought home by Philip Hyde and eloquent arguments by Martin Litton in Sierra Club Board Meetings, prodded the Sierra Club Board of Directors to decide to expand the interests of the Sierra Club beyond California and the Sierra Nevada.

The battle over Dinosaur not only made the Sierra Club a national organization, but also brought the cause of conservation national recognition. A number of conservation groups including the Wilderness Society and others formed a coalition of organizations opposing the Dinosaur National Monument dams. The conservation ideals exemplified by visionaries such as Henry David Thoreau, Aldo Leopold, and John Muir, were combined with new lobbying efforts, grassroots on location campaigning, full-page ads in national newspapers and other methods that became modern environmentalism.

The Dam Builders Reach For The Grand Canyon

“Post-War industrialists in league with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation found their high water mark when they reached for the Grand Canyon,” Philip Hyde explained in a 2004 interview. “World wide citizen action prevented Big Dam Foolishness from getting a foothold in the Grand Canyon. Dam builder’s influence declined from then on.” Today, there is a world-wide movement to remove dams on major rivers, but in the 1950s and 1960s, conservation groups did not yet have much power. David Brower, leader of the new environmental movement and Executive Director of the Sierra Club, and Martin Litton hatched a plan to stop the Grand Canyon dams. They organized a river trip down the Colorado River through Grand Canyon National Park. The river trip participants included the who’s who of the day in landscape photography, geology, ecology and other sciences and disciplines. Martin Litton acted as lead boatman, Francois Leydet joined the trip as a writer, Eliot Porter and Philip Hyde as photographers, David Brower as filmmaker, to mention only a few. Their creative efforts and scientific observations became the Sierra Club Books Exhibit Format Series book, Time And The River Flowing: Grand Canyon. The book went out to every member of Congress and with other written material circled the globe and caused a worldwide outpouring of support for saving the Grand Canyon.

Also on Martin Litton’s list of conservation successes was the making of Redwood National Park. The centerpiece of the redwoods campaign, the Sierra Club Books Exhibit Format Series book The Last Redwoods: Photographs And Story Of A Vanishing Scenic Resource with text by Francois Leydet and photographs again by Philip Hyde and Martin Litton, helped the Sierra Club establish its argument for a Redwood National Park between the California state parks along Redwood Creek where the largest redwoods remained rather than a Redwood National Park proposed by Save The Redwoods League that merely combined existing state parks. Read more on the Redwoods campaign and the making of The Last Redwoods with Martin Litton and Philip Hyde in future blog posts.

Martin Litton was the 185th known person to float down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon in 1955 and founded the company Grand Canyon Dories in 1971. He ran commercial river trips using small oar-powered wooden boats originally used for fishing in Oregon and known as drift boats, but adapted by Martin Litton for use in whitewater and renamed Grand Canyon Dories. Martin Litton wrote the introduction to a number of noted books on the Grand Canyon and other environmentally sensitive wilderness areas and national parks, as well as working as managing editor for Sunset Magazine. During his work for Sunset Magazine, Martin Litton used various made up names in print for his photo credits because Sunset Magazine did not want him to actively participate in controversial environmental campaigns.

At Age 94 Martin Litton Is Still Fighting For Redwoods

Though history has not given Martin Litton as much credit as others, at the present age of 94 he continues to work on various environmental campaigns and fly his Cessna 195. He even rowed a Dory through the Grand Canyon at age 90. Martin Litton held a seat on the Sierra Club Board of Directors from 1964 to 1973. He helped found the American Land Conservancy and served on its executive committee for 10 years. In 2005 he ran as a write-in candidate for the Sierra Club Board of Directors, but he did not win the election. His current focus is preventing the logging of Giant Sequoia Redwood Trees in Sequoia National Monument. See an excerpt from the recent film on Martin Litton. He still speaks regularly on conservation, often with outrage at the logging of the Giant Sequoia Trees:

The mission of the Forest Service is to get rid of all the nation’s forests so they can start over. Under the guise of removing hazardous trees, they are taking out all the dead trees that are serving as homes for woodpeckers and owls. Their credo is to remove trees that are dead, dying, or in danger of dying. That’s every tree in the world… I feel sorry for my grandchildren. The only true optimist is a pessimist. You have to realize how bad things are before you can improve them.

Stay tuned for excerpts from my fiery interview of Martin Litton in the next blog post in this series, “Martin Litton: David Brower’s Conservation Conscience 3.” Also in future blog posts read more stories of Philip Hyde and Martin Litton working or traveling together: a river trip up the Klamath River, down the Colorado river, flying over the California Coastal Redwoods, through Grand Canyon National Park.

Martin Litton: David Brower’s Conservation Conscience 1

June 6th, 2011

Martin Litton, “Father of Redwood National Park,” “Grand Old Man of the Colorado River” and David Brower’s “Conservation Conscience.”

Martin Litton, Palo Alto, California, September 2009, Wikipedia. Martin Litton was 93 years old and still speaking on behalf of the Sequoia Redwoods.

The environmental organization, Save America’s Forests, on its website referred to Martin Litton as the “Father of Redwood National Park.” The Los Angeles Times called Martin Litton, “The Grand Old Man of the Colorado River.” The Sierra Club’s first Executive Director, David Brower called Martin Litton his “conservation conscience.” In the groundbreaking Sierra Club Books Exhibit Format Series, Martin Litton used several different names for his photograph credits because as Senior Editor of Sunset Magazine, Sunset did not want him involved in controversial conservation campaigns. Regardless of what he’s referred to as, Martin Litton has proved to be what Voice of the Environment called him, “The great American conservationist of the 20th century.”

In addition to being an environmental activist and conservationist, Sierra Club Board member, bush pilot, river guide, hiker, writer, journalist and landscape photographer, Martin Litton today at age 94 has held leadership titles with many environmental groups including Save America’s Forests, Lighthawk, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, and Glen Canyon Institute.

Shortly after the Sierra Club Board made David Brower the first Executive Director in 1952, David Brower saw articles Martin Litton wrote in the Los Angeles Times about proposed dams in Dinosaur National Monument. David Brower invited Martin Litton to join the Sierra Club and thus a powerful alliance began. To learn more about David Brower see the blog post, “David Brower: Photographer and Environmentalist 1.”

David Brower wrote in his 1982 introduction to Martin Litton’s University of California, Berkeley, Bancroft Library Oral History: “Some people get the kudos and others, out of inequity, don’t. Martin Litton is due most of those addressed to me in error: More years than I will ever admit, he has been my conservation conscience.” In the same introduction, David Brower added:

If you look over the illustrations in the battle to save Dinosaur National Monument, you will find Charles Eggert’s color films, “This Is Dinosaur” and “Wilderness River Trail,” Philip Hyde’s beautiful work in black and white, and Martin Litton’s 16mm color, 4X5 color, and black and white photographs from cameras he happened to be carrying in battery, along with an eye and ear that missed nothing. That was the beginning, but only the beginning. The proper photo history of Martin Litton , with accompanying legends, could occupy many volumes… If there was a piece of American environment that had problems, Martin found out about it, wrote about it, photographed it from the surface or, with a hand on the stick, from the air. Sometimes he could use his own name. At other times, he was Clyde Thomas or Homer Gasquez. So you have to go through numberless publications and add all three names up to appreciate the aggregate retrospective of Martin Litton.

One year the Sierra Club directors, having voted for Grand Canyon dams and a year later reversed themselves, were ready to re-reverse. Martin’s knowledge and eloquence stopped them. They were ready to go for the wrong Redwood National Park. It was Martin who knew where the best Redwoods were, who had the creativity to propose a comprehensive Redwood National Park that would have been a monument to conservation genius. We didn’t get it because organizational jealousies within the conservation movement—one of the major threats to environment—got in the way. It was Martin who knew where the gentle wilderness was on the Kern Plateau—wilderness that should have been added to Sequoia National Park. “Old-boy” conservation trades got in the way. It was Martin, alas, who happened to be in Bagdad when the Sierra Club directors voted, without seeing it, to accept Diablo Canyon as an alternate site for the reactor proposed to be built at Nipomo Dunes. Had he been in San Francisco instead, a different history would have been written… When the Sierra Club Board was discussing what to do at Mineral King with respect to Walt Disney’s proposed ski development, and when I myself had wobbled and was about to go along, it was Martin who got me to reverse myself right there on the spot, in front of everybody.

More on Martin Litton, David Brower and Martin Litton’s travels and projects with Philip Hyde in the next and other future blog posts in this series, “Martin Litton: David Brower’s Conservation Conscience 2.”