Crimes against Nature: Squatters, Poachers, Thieves, and the Hidden History of American Conservation

By Karl Jacoby | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER 5
Fort Yellowstone

To most nineteenth-century conservationists, the military's arrival at Yellowstone marked a clear turning point in the park's fortunes. John Muir, for instance, rejoiced at seeing Yellowstone “efficiently managed and guarded by small troops of United States cavalry. “Uncle Sam's soldiers, the Sierra Club president enthused, are “the most effective forest police. 1 “I will not say that this Rocky Mountain region is the only part of the country where this lesson of obedience to law is badly needed, agreed Charles Dudley Warner in Harper's magazine, “but it is one of them. Like Muir, Warner saw Yellowstone's military administration as a notable improvement on its civilian predecessor: “Since the Park has passed under military control, fires are infrequent, poaching is suppressed, the 'formations' are no longer defaced, roads are improved, and the region is saved with its natural beauty for the enjoyment of all the people. …The lawless and the marauders are promptly caught, tried (by a civil officer), fined, and ejected. The conclusion to be gathered from such evidence was clear: “The intelligent rules of the Interior Department could only be carried out by military discipline. 2

Sharing Muir's and Warner's enthusiasm for “military discipline, many conservationists soon suggested that much of the rest of the federal government's conservation program be delegated to the military. In 1889, the American Forestry Association (AFA) passed a resolution recommending that the army “be employed to protect the public forest from spoliation and destruction. 3 The following year, Charles Sargent,

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