He envisioned the Yosemite area and the Sierra as pristine lands. In June , the influential associate editor of The Century magazine, Robert Underwood Johnson , camped with Muir in Tuolumne Meadows and saw firsthand the damage a large flock of sheep had done to the grassland.
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Johnson agreed to publish any article Muir wrote on the subject of excluding livestock from the Sierra high country. He also agreed to use his influence to introduce a bill to Congress to make the Yosemite area into a national park, modeled after Yellowstone National Park. On September 30, , the U. Congress passed a bill that essentially followed recommendations that Muir had suggested in two Century articles, "The Treasures of the Yosemite" and "Features of the Proposed National Park", both published in In early , Professor Henry Senger, a philologist at the University of California, Berkeley , contacted Muir with the idea of forming a local 'alpine club' for mountain lovers.
John Muir will preside. One week later Muir was elected president, Warren Olney was elected vice-president, and a board of directors was chosen that included David Starr Jordan , president of the new Stanford University. Muir remained president until his death 22 years later.
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The Sierra Club immediately opposed efforts to reduce Yosemite National Park by half, and began holding educational and scientific meetings. Dudley, the Sierra Club discussed the idea of establishing 'national forest reservations', which were later called National Forests. The Sierra Club was active in the successful campaign to transfer Yosemite National Park from state to federal control in The fight to preserve Hetch Hetchy Valley was also taken up by the Sierra Club, with some prominent San Francisco members opposing the fight.
Eventually a vote was held that overwhelmingly put the Sierra Club behind the opposition to Hetch Hetchy Dam. In July , Muir became associated with Gifford Pinchot , a national leader in the conservation movement. Pinchot was the first head of the United States Forest Service and a leading spokesman for the sustainable use of natural resources for the benefit of the people.
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His views eventually clashed with Muir's and highlighted two diverging views of the use of the country's natural resources. Pinchot saw conservation as a means of managing the nation's natural resources for long-term sustainable commercial use. As a professional forester, his view was that "forestry is tree farming," without destroying the long-term viability of the forests. In one essay about the National Parks, he referred to them as "places for rest, inspiration, and prayers. Both men opposed reckless exploitation of natural resources, including clear-cutting of forests.
Even Muir acknowledged the need for timber and the forests to provide it, but Pinchot's view of wilderness management was more resource-oriented. Their friendship ended late in the summer of when Pinchot released a statement to a Seattle newspaper supporting sheep grazing in forest reserves. Muir confronted Pinchot and demanded an explanation. When Pinchot reiterated his position, Muir told him: "I don't want any thing more to do with you.
Their contrasting views were highlighted again when the United States was deciding whether to dam Hetch Hetchy Valley. Pinchot favored damming the valley as "the highest possible use which could be made of it. As well dam for water-tanks the people's cathedrals and churches, for no holier temple has ever been consecrated by the hearts of man. In , Muir accompanied railroad executive E. He later relied on his friendship with Harriman to pressure Congress to pass conservation legislation.
Muir joined Roosevelt in Oakland, California , for the train trip to Raymond. The presidential entourage then traveled by stagecoach into the park. While traveling to the park, Muir told the president about state mismanagement of the valley and rampant exploitation of the valley's resources. Even before they entered the park, he was able to convince Roosevelt that the best way to protect the valley was through federal control and management.
After entering the park and seeing the magnificent splendor of the valley, the president asked Muir to show him the real Yosemite. Muir and Roosevelt set off largely by themselves and camped in the back country. The duo talked late into the night, slept in the brisk open air of Glacier Point, and were dusted by a fresh snowfall in the morning. It was a night Roosevelt never forgot. Muir then increased efforts by the Sierra Club to consolidate park management. Muir's attitude toward Native Americans evolved over his life. His earliest encounters, during his childhood in Wisconsin, were with Winnebago Indians , who begged for food and stole his favorite horse.
In spite of that, he had a great deal of sympathy for their "being robbed of their lands and pushed ruthlessly back into narrower and narrower limits by alien races who were cutting off their means of livelihood. Muir was given the Stickeen Muir's spelling, coastal tribe name "Ancoutahan" meaning "adopted chief". With population growth continuing in San Francisco, political pressure increased to dam the Tuolumne River for use as a water reservoir.
Muir wrote to President Roosevelt pleading for him to scuttle the project.
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After years of national debate, Taft's successor Woodrow Wilson signed the bill authorizing the dam into law on December 19, Muir felt a great loss from the destruction of the valley, his last major battle. The destruction of the charming groves and gardens, the finest in all California, goes to my heart.
In his life, Muir published six volumes of writings, all describing explorations of natural settings. Four additional books were published posthumously. Several books were subsequently published that collected essays and articles from various sources.
Miller writes that what was most important about his writings was not their quantity, but their "quality". He notes that they have had a "lasting effect on American culture in helping to create the desire and will to protect and preserve wild and natural environments. His first appearance in print was by accident, writes Miller; a person he did not know submitted, without his permission or awareness, a personal letter to his friend Jeanne Carr, describing Calypso borealis , a rare flower he had encountered.
The piece was published anonymously, identified as having been written by an "inspired pilgrim". He often compiled and organized such earlier writings as collections of essays or included them as part of narrative books.
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Muir's friendship with Jeanne Carr had a lifelong influence on his career as a naturalist and writer. They first met in the fall of , when, at age 22, he entered a number of his homemade inventions in the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society Fair. Carr, a fair assistant, was asked by fair officials to review Muir's exhibits to see if they had merit.
She thought they did and "saw in his entries evidence of genius worthy of special recognition," notes Miller. According to Muir biographer Bonnie Johanna Gisel, the Carrs recognized his "pure mind, unsophisticated nature, inherent curiosity, scholarly acumen, and independent thought.
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Muir was often invited to the Carrs' home; he shared Jeanne's love of plants. In , he left Wisconsin to begin exploring the Canadian wilderness and, while there, began corresponding with her about his activities. Carr wrote Muir in return and encouraged him in his explorations and writings, eventually having an important influence over his personal goals. At one point she asked Muir to read a book she felt would influence his thinking, Lamartine 's The Stonemason of Saint Point. It was the story of a man whose life she hoped would "metabolize in Muir," writes Gisel, and "was a projection of the life she envisioned for him.
After Muir returned to the United States, he spent the next four years exploring Yosemite, while at the same time writing articles for publication. During those years, Muir and Carr continued corresponding. She sent many of her friends to Yosemite to meet Muir and "to hear him preach the gospel of the mountains," writes Gisel.
The most notable was naturalist and author Ralph Waldo Emerson. The importance of Carr, who continually gave Muir reassurance and inspiration, "cannot be overestimated," adds Gisel. It was "through his letters to her that he developed a voice and purpose. Muir came to trust Carr as his "spiritual mother," and they remained friends for 30 years. The value of their friendship was first disclosed by a friend of Carr's, clergyman and writer G.
Wharton James. After obtaining copies of their private letters from Carr, and despite pleadings from Muir to return them, he instead published articles about their friendship, using those letters as a primary source. In one such article, his focus was Muir's debt to Carr, stating that she was his "guiding star" who "led him into the noble paths of life, and then kept him there. Muir's friend, zoologist Henry Fairfield Osborn , writes that Muir's style of writing did not come to him easily, but only with intense effort.
Each sentence, each phrase, each word, underwent his critical scrutiny, not once but twenty times before he was satisfied to let it stand. Miller speculates that Muir recycled his earlier writings partly due to his "dislike of the writing process.
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