Dreamers & Defenders: American Conservationists

Dreamers & Defenders: American Conservationists

Dreamers & Defenders: American Conservationists

Dreamers & Defenders: American Conservationists


In Dreamers and Defenders Douglas H. Strong relates the triumphs and defeats of twelve environmentalists from Henry David Thoreau to Barry Commoner. Their biographies form the dramatic and ongoing story of the conservation movement in America.

Beginning with Thoreau, Frederick Law Olmsted, and George Perkins Marsh, Strong shows that conservation enjoyed the support of a few writers and scientists even in the heyday of land development in the mid-nineteenth century. Later chapters are devoted to John Wesley Powell, who after the Civil War attempted to introduce enlightened land policies in the arid West; Gifford Pinchot, Theodore Roosevelt's chief forester; ohn Muir, who popularized the gospel of wilderness preservation; Stephen Mather, who launched the National Park Service; and Aldo Leopold, advocate of an ethical attitude toward the land. Other chapters deal with Harold Ickes, who as Franklin D. Roosevelt's secretary of the interior spurred conservation efforts and encouraged economic recovery from the Great Depression; David Brower, the controversial executive director of the Sierra Club; and Rachel Carson and Barry Commoner, who alerted Americans to the dangers of an environment increasingly polluted by toxic chemicals.


Human alteration of the environment is inevitable. It has gone on since earliest people learned to use fire. But only in the latest century of our short tenure on the planet has most of the serious damage to air, soil, water, plants, and animals taken place, and only very recently has it reached crisis proportions.

In recent decades a few dedicated conservationists have aroused a growing number of concerned citizens in support of a more enlightened land policy. It is my hope that the story of their efforts, both triumphs and defeats, will promote a better understanding of the rise of conservation in the United States and perhaps encourage others to follow in their footsteps.

Robin W. Winks, Thomas R. Cox, Donald C. Swain, Susan L. Flader, and Horace M. Albright all provided helpful criticism of portions of an earlier, shorter version of this book: The Conservationists (Menlo Park, Calif.: Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., 1971). The first six chapters of the earlier book have been revised and four new chapters have been added. A selected annotated bibliography (excluding major publications cited in the . . .

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