The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 5

June 3rd, 2010 by David Leland Hyde Leave a reply »

Philip Hyde On Assignment In Dinosaur National Monument, A Return Without Fanfare And Philip Hyde’s Early Struggles

(Continued from the blog post, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 4.”)

Philip Hyde In Jones Hole, Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado, 1951 Self-Portrait with 5X7 Linhof View Camera.

In 1950, the same year the Korean War began, Oscar Chapman, President Harry Truman’s Secretary of Interior, recommended Congressional authorization for the Upper Colorado River Storage Project, which to begin with depended on the building of two dams in Dinosaur National Monument.

One proposed dam would be built at the narrow lower end of a wide river oasis called Echo Park and in the process would flood the most scenic part of Dinosaur National Monument. Nearly fully submerged, in Echo Park at the center of the unparalleled scene stood Steamboat Rock. Steamboat Rock rises out of the river on three sides of it, 900 feet of sheer walls like a giant end of a bread loaf. The second dam would be erected at Split Mountain, also on the Green River below the Dinosaur Quarry near Dinosaur National Monument’s southern boundary where the river flows lazily along sculpted sandstone cliffs and birds call through the Cottonwood trees.

The US Bureau of Reclamation proposed Echo Park dam as the “wheelhorse” of the entire Colorado River Storage Project because the sale of its hydroelectric power would finance the construction of other key dams on the Colorado. They proposed Split Mountain dam to modulate flow fluctuations caused by large power-generating releases from Echo Park dam.

For years National Park Service leadership did not quite believe the Bureau of Reclamation would try to invade the national monument, even though a clause in Dinosaur’s legislation permitted it. As the Bureau of Reclamation garnered support from local towns expecting a boom, the National Park Service began to realize the Bureau of Reclamation would go farther than mere surveys. The National Park Service began to reach out for help to young environmental groups like the Sierra Club.

A Turning Point For The Sierra Club And The Modern Environmental Movement

Meanwhile, the Sierra Club was getting more organized, growing exponentially and debating a shift to a more national focus. In December 1952, the Sierra Club Board of Directors approved a new position of Executive Director for David Brower to lead the club, act as spokesman and recommend fiscal policy. David Brower had already organized boat trips down both the Yampa River and the Green River. He had concurred with Richard Leonard in sending Philip Hyde in 1951, to explore and photograph Dinosaur National Monument from land.

The Sierra Club bought three sets of Dad’s prints when he returned from Dinosaur. In September 1951, Dad was still seeking additional paying uses of his photographs when he wrote to J. W. Penfold, Western Representative of the Izaak Walton League describing his coverage of the subject:

I have quite a stack of negatives of Dinosaur to print. Though we missed getting into the Canyon of the Ladore, I covered the rest of the monument pretty well and have quite a few pictures of Jones Hole—the upper part you don’t see from the river—and one of the most beautiful areas of the monument, Echo Park, Mantles’ Cave and ranch area, the Quarry area, Split Mountain Gorge, Round Top. Several days before running the river, we flew over most of the monument in a Vernal man’s little Ercoupe—an experience I highly recommend. After having walked and driven over the area, it really puts it together to fly over it. And one gets a marvelous conception of the topography of the whole country. The plateaus and benches all begin to make sense from the air, something that didn’t quite come off when surveyed from the ground. Certainly from the air and on the ground the canyons present a more interesting and beautiful aspect than they could from the surface of a lake which would inundate them. The underwater caverns of Capri may be delightful from a glass-bottomed boat, but what could you see through the turbid waters of the Green and Yampa?

The Financial Outlook Became Bleak After Demand Subsided For Dad’s Dinosaur National Monument Original Black and White Prints

Dad went on to outline the same suggestions he also made to Richard Leonard, how his prints could help raise awareness of Dinosaur’s beauty. He suggested he make a set of prints to travel around to various conservation organizations, another set for use at Dinosaur, another set for the National Park Service, a fourth for Sierra Club use and another for reproduction in pamphlets and magazine articles. Several environmental organizations did use Dad’s photographs, though not to the extent he hoped. Richard Leonard shot down the traveling show idea but was responsible for supporting the purchase of the three sets of prints for the Sierra Club. Dad organized his own traveling Dinosaur Exhibition, that went to libraries and museums all over the country. All of the printing and framing materials added up for the young photographer, who had very little money having just spent nearly four years in photography school.

To help support Dad, Mom taught school for 12 years. She began teaching in 1948 while Dad was still in photography school. She first taught at Colma Kindergarten in Daily City. Mom and Dad moved to the northern Sierra Nevada in 1950. They took up residence at the Fox Farm at Lake Almanor, California. Mom taught kindergarten in Greenville and they moved to the Fredrickson’s Ranch east of town. Dad put together a makeshift darkroom in the Granary at Fredrickson’s. The darkroom had been a single stall closet, about four feet square. Dad could just get inside, tape the door shut and get the lights out to make prints.

Though the young couple were newlywed and happy in the mountains, those years were very bleak financially. Dad’s log entry for May 16, 1952: “Weeks of wondering, doubt. Ansel has been advising me to work toward some solution of economic problem. The two years in Greenville and the mountains seem to be drawing to a close. I have a feeling change is near. Ned Graves in Carmel suggests I work part-time in a photo shop and has provided the impetus. I will look into the possibility the second week of June when we go down below again.”

In one letter Dad told Ansel Adams of his troubles. Ansel Adams recommended that Dad get into another line of work for awhile. Ansel Adams said that it would clear Dad’s head and he could do photography on the side. Ansel Adams said Dad would have a difficult time making a living defending wilderness….

(CONTINUED IN THE BLOG POST, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 6.”)

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6 comments

  1. pj finn says:

    Though I’ve been somewhat familiar with your dad’s photography over the years, I never realized how active and effective he was in wilderness and preservation issues. Either I simply missed all that, or he didn’t get the recognition he so richly deserved.

    With each post I read here, my respect for his work and what he stood for just keeps growing.

  2. Hi PJ, Dad was a quiet man who felt the photographs spoke for themselves. His work was persuasive in saving wilderness, but he did not draw attention to his role in the work. He saw himself as a vehicle through which the work flowed. He came to the Wilderness Society, National Audubon and Sierra Club at a young age when other bigger stars in landscape photography and in conservation were already center stage. He saw a certain number of leaders in conservation interested in doing as much good as possible and simultaneously trying to get as much credit for it as possible. Rather than join the fray, elbowing for the limelight, he quietly went about his photography, made himself available to David Brower more than anyone else and when all was said and done he ended up being the lead photographer on more of the book projects than any other photographer, a fact by the way, that I finally discovered by adding up the number of photographs by each photographer in each book in the Exhibit Format Series. Dad had never noticed it himself, though, as you can read around the internet and in print media, a good number of people noticed it before I did.

  3. david joyner says:

    Are you preparing a book on Echo Park Dam and Environmentalism? If so, is it available for sale somewhere?

  4. Hi David, thank you for your question. There are several excellent books on the Echo Park and Split Mountain Dam campaigns in Dinosaur National Monument and their role in the establishment of modern environmentalism, and conservation photography for that matter. There are also several on the Grand Canyon battles and many others. You may already be familiar with these books, but for the sake of all readers, I refer to these books in a number of the posts in this series. One of the best is Jon Cosco’s “Echo Park: Struggle For Preservation” and Russell Martin’s “A Story That Stands Like a Dam” about Glen Canyon and the Grand Canyon proposed dams. However, I am not writing another dam book. I am writing a book about my father and mother and their wilderness love affair as they traveled and helped to protect the national treasures of the American West. Thank you for your interest. Please stay tuned here for updates on the project.

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