The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 6

September 23rd, 2010 by David Leland Hyde Leave a reply »

Ansel Adams Advises Philip Hyde On His Struggles While Action Is On Hold To Keep Dams Out Of National Parks

(Continued from previous blog post in the category, “Excerpts of New Book” blog post titled, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 5.”)

Split Mountain Sandstone Reefs, Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado-Utah, 1951 by Philip Hyde.

In 1951, the Sierra Club and Wilderness Society sent my father landscape photographer Philip Hyde on the world’s first conservation photography assignment. Ansel Adams and Cedric Wright contributed photographs to campaigns in the 1940s, but Philip Hyde was the first ever sent on assignment. As a result of Philip Hyde’s trip to Dinosaur National Monument in Northwestern Colorado and Utah, he and Martin Litton became photographers for the first book published for a conservation cause: “This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country” edited by Wallace Stegner.

Philip Hyde went to Dinosaur National Monument in 1951, but “This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country” did not come out until four years later while the Sierra Club worked on other projects. During those years finances were bleak for Ardis and Philip Hyde even though Sierra Club, Wilderness Society and other conservation leaders had seen Philip Hyde’s photographs of Dinosaur National Monument in 1951. “Ansel praised my work to them to the point of embarrassment,” Philip Hyde said. “But nobody was ready to fund a project to use the photographs to protect the National Monument and thereby the whole National Park System.”

In 1951 Philip Hyde’s photographs not only circulated among environmental leaders, they toured national museums and libraries. Earlier that year Martin Litton began writing articles against the Upper Colorado River Storage project in the Los Angeles Times. “The people of Los Angeles opposed the Upper Colorado River Storage Project because it would take water away from California and give it to Arizona, Utah and Colorado,” Martin Litton explained. Martin Litton wrote extensively about the damage to the Colorado River ecosystem that would be wrought by the dams and of the unique beauty of Dinosaur National Monument’s canyons.

The Sierra Club Debates Whether To Go National

Sierra Club leaders also watched David Brower’s rough movie footage from Yampa River and Green River trips in Dinosaur National Monument. The prospect of protecting Dinosaur set off the Sierra Club’s first major internal conflict. Would the Sierra Club reach beyond the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California? As the leaders and members began to take notice of Dinosaur’s unique beauty, debate ran hot in board meetings between those that favored a local California focus and those that favored a national focus necessary to prevent dams on the Colorado River and its tributaries. Preserving Dinosaur National Monument finally became the Sierra Club’s highest priority in 1953.

By 1953 the Hydes had survived two bleak years and were ready to move back to San Francisco or to Monterey. Philip Hyde’s personal journals exhibit misgivings, self-doubt but also faith that somehow they would make it. God or Nature would provide.

Ansel Adams On Isolation And Making A Living

In correspondence Ansel Adams told Philip Hyde that he would have a difficult time making a living defending wilderness. Here is a small part of Ansel Adams’ letter*** to Philip Hyde on May 4th, 1952:

The whole matter does not relate to Nature – it relates to you, and to the ways and means by which you can do what you want to do and at the same time, make a living. The latter is unfortunately important…

Let us look logically at your problem. We all have a great admiration and respect for you and your ideals. Your photography is very fine indeed. the jury for the Bender Awards was much impressed by your submissions… You have a deep and sincere interest in the Natural Scene… I think the basic motive is identification with principles which you honestly believe are imperative to the security of civilization.

However – to get back to the pressing problem which we have all been concerned – you must recognize the need to exist in the world and truly function. This you cannot do in isolation, or by condensing your life into a narrow pipeline of dogma. But to really know nature you must know humanity, because nature does not exist without humanity. You will never know Nature if you “escape” and bring yourself to Nature as a separate entity with separate and personal problems to solve.

I think that you are making a great mistake to isolate yourself; you really should be right in the middle of humanity – bringing them the messages of nature which are of real value.

With Regret Ardis And Philip Hyde Leave The Mountains

In response, Ardis and Philip Hyde bought a city lot in Carmel and moved there planning to build and leave the mountains behind. Philip Hyde’s log entry for August 20, 1952:

On the eve of our move to Carmel on August 27—Though I recognize the rightness of the change and acknowledge that it came as an unfolding of progress for us, still something of me will remain in these mountains to attend the rites of the seasons: to watch the first magically gentle falling of snow, savor the turning of leaves and burst with enthusiasm as nature bursts with Spring’s new life. No collection of cities can ever offer the opportunity of being with nature as these mountains have. The tinkling of coins in the marketplace will never still the memory of a meadowlark singing across the February snow, or the sounds of the pines when Fall shouts her warnings of winter. We are not retreating from the mountains, only going where we can find more people to sing to of them. And we shall still have our pilgrimages to renew our songs.

The Sierra Club worked on other projects and put Dinosaur on hold. The Hydes could not qualify for a home construction loan on their property in  Carmel because in those days banks did not count the wife’s income of a young couple because she might become pregnant and lose her job. Philip Hyde contracted a bad case of poison oak trying to remove the vines from the lot in Carmel. “Everything seemed to go wrong in Carmel,” Philip Hyde said.

Hyde Fortunes Improve In French Morocco, North Africa

Meanwhile, Ardis Hyde’s father, my grandfather Clint King, was a Project Manager and Design Engineer for Engineering Conglomerate P.U.S.O.M. that built and designed many of the “Cold War” bases in French Morocco, North Africa. Clint and Elsie King, my grandparents, were doing well and enjoying Morocco and they thought Ardis and Philip Hyde would love it too. Grandpa could get his son-in-law a draftsman job at the base near Casablanca. Having few other options to make a good living, Philip Hyde took the job as a draftsman and Ardis Hyde worked in the PUSOM office on the base. “They took the wings of the morning,” and went to live in the distant land of Morocco.

The Hydes got caught up financially and explored Morocco in their off time. Stay tuned for a future series of blog posts on life in Morocco. After a year in Morocco, by June 1954 back in the U.S. the battle over dams in Dinosaur National Monument finally began to heat up. The Sierra Club designed “This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country and Its Magic Rivers” and made plans to use Philip Hyde’s 1951 photographs with a series of essays to be edited by the acclaimed novelist Wallace Stegner. David Brower became Executive Director of the Sierra Club in 1952 and in 1953 sent letters to Morocco asking Philip Hyde to go back to Dinosaur for more photographs.

***Excerpts of Ansel Adams’ letters used by permission of the Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust.

(CONTINUED THE BLOG POST, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 7.”)

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  1. pj says:

    I can’t help but nod and chuckle a bit to myself over Adam’s words that making a living is unfortunately important. Too true…

    Your dad’s journal entry about the move to Carmel is a very moving and beautiful piece of writing. Once again, a very interesting post David.

  2. Hi PJ, I was hoping you might enjoy this post because of your thoughts about moving to San Francisco. Dad’s note says everything about who my parents were. Some scenarios reveal much. Now looking back, it is obvious that my parents were destined to live in an urban area for only a short time. My father used to comment about how much clearer the path is looking back than looking into the future.

  3. pj says:

    Oh yes. My thoughts on SF go back and forth. To oversimplify, one of the reasons I’m considering it is because of what Adams said about making a living. Of course my reluctance is very much related to what your dad said about his move. This post kind of touched on both sides of it for me.

  4. My parents were a responsible young married couple looking to find some way to make it in the world and they recognized the necessity and advantages of remaining solvent and perhaps saving a bit. They saw the point Ansel Adams and David Brower both made numerous times. However, with time they found their love of nature and their desire for a wilderness home even greater than their desire to get ahead. They found a subsistence method that enabled them to live on next to nothing for a long time. Eventually this survivalist approach enabled them to blossom and thrive because they were growing in the right kind of fertilizer for them. They loved the mountains and the outdoors more than anything and they didn’t need much else to live on. Neither of them liked gadgets. Everything was simplified. In the future it might be good to know how to live close to the land like they did, but since I’m not married I prefer a bit less isolation and more to do socially and culturally without having to drive great distances for it. I want to be active and involved in developing green solutions to our present energy and economic challenges.

  5. This was such an interesting post, David. I felt a twinge when reading Ansel’s letter to your dad. It must have been a hard letter for your dad to read. I’m glad your folks found their own way and lived their own unique lives.


  6. Hi Sharon, thank you for reading and your insights. One of the aspects that made my parents the happiest was that they did do it the “less traveled” way.

  7. Richard Wong says:

    Great series on Dinosaur NM. I’m actually going to link to it in my next blog post that I’ve been working on for a while now.

    You should get the Sierra Club to publish the book since a lot of your dad’s story involves the pivotal moments of their history.

  8. Hi Richard, thank you for reading and for linking to the Dinosaur series. The Sierra Club is one of several presses who have expressed interest in reading the book when it is done. In some ways I might like to publish with a major New York house and have cultivated some avenues toward that end, however, I don’t know what is best yet. I will address and report on it more down the road.

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