Posts Tagged ‘Edgar Wayburn’

Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log 10

February 10th, 2011

Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log: June 14-September 14, 1971 by Ardis Hyde

(Ardis, David and Philip Hyde in Their Camper. Continued from the blog post, “Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log 9.”)

Part Ten: Layover at Bartlett Cove, Glacier Bay National Monument

Fairweather Range From Elfin Cove, Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska, 1971 by Philip Hyde.

Sunday, July 4, 1971: Sure enough the sun was out when we arose, our first sunshine since the day we traveled from Ketchikan to Wrangle. See the blog post, “Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log 4.” This side of the shore was shady and the dirt still cool, though the beach was in the sun. We ate breakfast at our beach kitchen with fire, shivering, but warmed up as we moved around and exercised. It was glorious to look across at Mt. Fairweather and see it all, with snow white summits left and right. We had a leisurely morning with Philip photographing in the Spruce Forest and around Black Pond. David and I puttered around the beach and the forest trail. We napped after lunch. All of us walked up the beach in the late afternoon. Lots of old beach lines were marked by dry blackened rockweed, caches of mussel shells and assorted flotsam. We found a perfect small crab skeleton for David’s “museum collection.” By then the sun was shining fully on our beach kitchen and we didn’t need to revive the fire. I cooked on the Svea stove.

We walked back along the nature trail to Glacier Bay Lodge for an 8:45 pm Park Ranger program of slides on Glacier Bay in general by Park Ranger Tim Setlicka. After the program we made reservations to go on a boat tour to Muir Inlet the next day. We talked with the Park Ranger again on our way back to camp. We then found new neighbors on both sides of us, with three parties total camped in our area. The newest neighbors were wetsuit divers and had already been in the water.

Landscape Photography Blogger Notes:

Why was Philip Hyde in Alaska? The Short Introduction

(More on the role of the photography of Philip Hyde in Alaskan conservation efforts in future blog posts.)

In his book, “Your Land and Mine: Evolution of a Conservationist,” Edgar Wayburn, president of the Sierra Club off and on in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, wrote of his experiences on his first travels in Alaska in 1967:

We soon found ourselves engrossed by conservation issues. Of most obvious concern was the damage caused by mining. About three miles northwest of Camp Denali, (just outside Denali National Park) hydraulic mining at Moose Creek had devastated the landscape. Huge areas of earth had been blasted away and piled high in waste mounds; rain had washed away the tailings onto land downstream. Mining had churned up so much soil that the river, once free running and clear, ran thick with brown mud… (Hydraulic mining) had been outlawed in California, but in Alaska it was allowed to continue full force. Even more pressing than the mines at Kantishna was the National Park Service plan to build a new hotel above Wonder Lake, just inside (Denali National Park’s) northern boundary. And at the eastern entrance to the park, the National Park Service was surveying sites to expand the existing hotel there…. At the time of Alaska’s statehood in 1959, fewer than a million of the state’s 375 million acres were in private hands…. Of the remaining lands, 290 million acres were considered unappropriated, falling under the administration of the Bureau of Land Management. The fate of the vast majority of Alaska had yet to be decided.

In 1967, there were 99 Sierra Club members in Alaska. The only other notable conservation organization in Alaska at the time was the Alaska Conservation Society. Edgar Wayburn and his wife Peggy Wayburn, who also held various leadership roles with the Sierra Club, began to rally people to the cause of wilderness conservation. They proposed an alternative site for the hotel that would not be destructive to the landscape, Mt. Denali views or wildlife ranges. Staff of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service arranged for Peggy and Edgar Wayburn to fly over the Kenai Moose Range, now the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge:

Oil had been discovered on the Kenai Peninsula a decade earlier, and we witnessed evidence of seismic research conducted by oil companies—large stretches of denuded land where the trees had been shaved so the companies could put in their seismic lines and test underground for oil reserves. Cook Inlet, which separates the Kenai Peninsula from the main bulk of Alaska, was dotted with oil rigs and derricks.

In Juneau, Alaska, the U.S. Forest Service had a different perspective. The U.S. Forest Service controlled all the land in Southeast Alaska, a coastal region of rain forests, fjords, islands and peaks as you have read about in previous blog posts in this series: see also, “Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log 6.” Included in this domain, the Tongass National Forest, contained almost 17 million acres, the largest unit of the national forest system, and the Chugach National Forest consisted of over 5 million acres. The Forest Service was not intent on conserving forests, Forest Service leaders in Alaska, as often elsewhere, were committed to stimulating the economy, bringing in business and creating jobs through the pulping and milling of the old growth rain forests they managed. Edgar Wayburn began to research studies that had been done on potential wilderness areas. To his surprise, even after the Wilderness Act of 1964 mandated wilderness studies and they were ongoing throughout the lower forty-eight states, the Forest Service in Alaska had made no wilderness studies, even though they were sitting on by far the largest holdings of wilderness.

On their first trip to Alaska, Peggy and Edgar Wayburn’s last stop was Glacier Bay. Proclamation declared Glacier Bay a national monument in 1925, but its protections were limited and some of Glacier Bay’s most striking features were not included in the national monument. The many fronts of conservation battle in Alaska were developed and valiantly assailed with the help of Philip Hyde and other photographers. However, even with these efforts, Glacier Bay did not become a national park until 1980.

After Executive Director David Brower was forced into resigning from the Sierra Club, the Sierra Club no longer called their books the Exhibit Format Series. They adopted a new look to the books and a different size format. One of the first flagship books of the Sierra Club just after the Exhibit Format Series ended, was called “Alaska: The Great Land” by Mike Miller and Peggy Wayburn with a number of photographers including Philip Hyde as the primary illustrator. Sierra Club members and leaders used this book in the various campaigns to defend Alaska. In 1971, Philip Hyde’s summer photography trip with his family to Alaska, was an opportunity to make photographs of the areas sensitive to each environmental campaign. Philip Hyde also returned to Alaska the following summer in 1972 and also in 1973 and many years off and on afterward. Some of the photographs published in “Alaska: The Great Land” were made on the summer 1971 Denali National Park trip.

(More on the role of the photography of Philip Hyde in Alaskan conservation efforts in future blog posts.)

Continued in the next blog post, “Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log 11.”

Notes On “The Redwoods” By Filmmaker Mark Jonathan Harris

December 29th, 2010

Introduction To “Notes On The Redwoods

Fog, Redwood Forest, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California, 1962 by Philip Hyde. The left side of this photograph was the primary promotional cover photograph for the 1968 Academy Award Winning short documentary film, "The Redwoods," written by Mark Jonathan Harris.

The documentary The Redwoods, produced by the Sierra Club and written by Mark Jonathan Harris, was “a major influence in building public and congressional support for the creation of Redwoods National Park.” The film won the Academy Award for Short Documentary in 1968. Writer Mark Jonathan Harris is distinguished professor and head of documentary films at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. Besides The Redwoods, he has either directed or wrote several other films that won the Academy Award. The Long Way Home, a film about the period immediately following the Holocaust won the “Oscar” for Best Feature Length Documentary in 1997. Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport was produced for Warner Bros. and also won an Academy Award for Best Feature Length Documentary in 2000. See Mark Jonathan Harris’ short biography on the USC website for more about his other films since 2000 and his many other accomplishments. Today we have the honor of welcoming Mark Jonathan Harris for this guest blog post…

Notes on The Redwoods

By Mark Jonathan Harris, August 2006

Looking back at my early work as a filmmaker forty years later, I see themes and patterns that I didn’t recognize at the time. I grew up Scranton, Pennsylvania, a small coal-mining town in northeastern Pennsylvania, but the first documentaries of any value that I made were both about California, and both were influenced by my youthful impressions of the state.

I first visited California on a summer vacation with my father when I was 13. Two of the obligatory tourist stops left lasting imprints. One was a visit to Paramount where Cecil B. DeMille was shooting The Ten Commandments and I watched hundreds of extras dancing feverishly around the Golden Calf. The other was a trip to Muir Woods where I tried unsuccessfully to capture the towering old-growth redwoods in my box camera. A year or so later, back in Scranton, I discovered John Steinbeck and avidly pored through all his work. If I had read The Grapes of Wrath and In Dubious Battle at a different point in my life, perhaps they wouldn’t have had as strong an impact, but at that impressionable age, Steinbeck’s books opened my eyes to social injustice and the need to fight against it.

Did these early experiences really shape the filmmaker I became? Or do I remember them now because they are congruent with my later history? As storytellers, we all try to find some narrative thread in the often incoherent randomness of our lives. Still, it isn’t surprising to me that the first documentary of any significance that I made, Huelga!, explored the farmworkers’ strike in the grape fields of Delano, California, and that I immediately followed it with The Redwoods, a plea to save the ancient and stately Sequoia Sempervirens.

Both of these films were heavily influenced by the idealism of the Sixties and the social protest movements of the times, the civil rights struggles in the South and the burgeoning environmental movement. But I also see a connection in the two subjects I wasn’t aware of then. Both films reflect the belief that there is something more important than self — whether it be the grandeur of nature or the power of collective action—and that we must all join together to fight for what we believe in.

The Redwoods was a collaboration of three young filmmakers–Trevor Greenwood, Richard Chew, and myself–all working together at King Screen Productions, a three-year-old documentary production company located in Seattle. Trevor had come to King by way of UCLA film school, Richard as a dropout from Harvard Law, and me after a brief stint as a wire service reporter covering crime in Chicago. It was Trevor’s inspiration to make the film and his aesthetic vision that guided us. At UCLA he had studied with Basil Wright and been deeply influenced by the British documentaries of the Thirties and Forties and the Pare Lorentz films made for the Roosevelt administration during the Depression. We all carefully studied The River and tried to achieve the same lyrical blend of sound and imagery.

At that time, the Sierra Club was leading the fight to establish a Redwood National Park and we went to them for financial support for the film. I don’t remember the exact budget anymore, but I doubt that it was more than $30,000. The Sierra Club put up $10,000 and King Screen Productions agreed to cover the remaining costs. Trevor made an initial research trip to Humboldt Country and hiked over the area being considered for the park with Sierra Club president Edgar Wayburn. “Walking through the fog-shrouded trees,” he told us when he returned, “you could actually hear the droplets of dew falling from the foliage and striking the forest floor.”

Shortly afterwards the three of us went off to make the film. Richard was the cinematographer, I took sound, and Trevor shot additional footage with an Arriflex and a spring-wound Bolex that would only run for about 15 seconds. We took a 16mm projector with us and at night would view the rushes in our motel room in Orick.

There were two principal artistic challenges we faced in making the film.  One was the simple difficulty of filming the trees well. The other was making people care about preserving them. Ronald Reagan, after all, had famously remarked, “If you’ve seen one redwood, you’ve seen them all.”

Filming the trees was technically difficult because of both their size and the excessive contrast between light and shadow in the forest. Since we were making the film for the Sierra Club, we were conscious of the high photographic standards it had set in the coffee table books it published by artists like Ansel Adams, Eliot Porter, and Philip Hyde. It took some experimenting for Richard and Trevor to find the best photographic approach. Finally, they settled on shooting the trees in a light fog or from the edge of a forest where sidelight struck the trunks and brought out the texture of the foreground trees. The fog helped to create a sense of mystery and of age–the primeval forest–and when the fog drifted through the trees it made them come alive. I still remember standing on the road with my Nagra in the morning damp and mist, recording  the logging trucks approaching in the distance. We used that sound to good effect in the opening of the film.

Although we wanted the trees to speak for themselves, we knew we also had to have a human voice in the film, a person who could provide us some perspective on what we were seeing. We struggled to find that elusive voice. While Trevor and Richard were filming the trees, I spent much of my time searching for a narrator, interviewing long-time residents and loggers in the area. Although all the interviews were informative, I wasn’t able to find any one individual whose voice seemed strong enough to me to carry the whole film. So I ended up creating a composite narrator based on the comments of the people I had interviewed. In the end, a Seattle actor who had worked as a logger in his youth recorded the narration for the film, adding some of his own phrasings and observations to my text.

When we had edited the film to our satisfaction, we took it to San Francisco to show the board of the Sierra Club. The lights went on after the screening and there was a long, almost interminable silence.  Finally, a woman raised her hand and spoke. “That bird call at the beginning of the film,” she said, “that bird is not indigenous to the area.” We had been caught red-handed using a bird call from a library of sound effects. Outside of that memorable and unexpected comment, I don’t remember much more about that screening except that the Sierra Club was pleased with the film and used it extensively in its lobbying and organizing work to establish a Redwood National Park.

Although none of us had great expectations for the film’s theatrical release, we wanted it to be seen by as many people as possible, so we blew the film up to 35mm to increase our opportunities for distribution. The Academy Award nomination was a great boost in getting theaters to run the film. The Oscar itself was a huge surprise. Charles Champlin and other Los Angeles film critics had picked other documentaries to win. The Oscar ceremony that year was postponed a few days because of the assassination of Martin Luther King. Unfortunately, Richard and I were booked for a flight to Colombia the day before the rescheduled ceremony because we were starting a new documentary about the Peace Corps. Given the prediction of the pundits, we decided not to change our flights. Trevor stayed in L.A. to attend the ceremonies. Richard and I read about the award the day afterwards in El Tiempo, the newspaper in Bogota.   It was two more months before I actually held the statue in my hand.  After spending those months in an impoverished rural village in the Andes, the Oscar seemed even more unreal.

Forty years later, the fight to preserve the few remaining old-growth redwood forests against the greed and short sightedness of corporate logging still goes on. Although a definite accomplishment, the national park that Congress established saved less of the ecosystem than the Sierra Club and other environmental groups had battled for. Logging companies continue to threaten the entire redwood forest ecosystem by clearcutting trees to the edge of park boundaries and destroying streams and wildlife habitats throughout the region. In the late 90s, environmental activists took up the battle again to save more of the remaining 3% of the world’s tallest living trees. Julia Butterfly Hill attracted international publicity by climbing an over 1000-year-old giant redwood and living 180 feet off the ground for two years and eight days until she finally  persuaded the Maxxam Corp. to preserve the tree and a 200 foot buffer zone around it. Other activists continue to employ her tree-climbing tactics.

Richard, Trevor, and I have all gone on to make other films since The Redwoods, but this short documentary remains a source of pride. Not only were we able to use our cinematic skills in the service of a cause we believed in, but we were able to help achieve a concrete result. It is impossible to measure accurately the effect any single film has on public opinion, but the Sierra Club did show The Redwoods to members of Congress, and not too long afterwards a bill to create a Redwood National Park was passed. I’m pleased to have contributed to its establishment. Now my grandsons will be able to experience the same feelings of awe and wonder that I first felt as a child, and continue to feel, whenever I enter these majestic forests.

How To Get The Film

The DVD of The Redwoods can now be purchased through the Phoenix Learning Group, where the film is described as bringing “attention to the impending doom of California’s magnificent redwoods which are being logged at a rate of three million a decade. Through the narration of an old logger, viewers are moved to consider the environmental value of these magnificent trees which date back to the age of the dinosaur.”