While CI launched its Nature Is Speaking campaign just four months ago, nature of course has been speaking for eons. Every now and then, the message reached the Oval Office — and U.S. presidents listened.
A small beaver pond reflects clouds in the Hulahula River Valley, Alaska. (© Art Wolfe/ www.artwolfe.com)
Sometimes they took small steps, like placing solar panels on the White House roof (Jimmy Carter). Other times they felt particularly ambitious and protected over 230 million acres [93 million hectares] of forests and land (Teddy Roosevelt, perhaps the most notable champion for conservation).
In honor of Presidents Day (celebrated in the U.S. this year on Monday, February 16), here are some other examples of how commanders-in-chief heeded nature’s call:
Redwood Spoke, and Abraham Lincoln Listened
In 1854, businessman George Gale ordered workers to remove the bark of a 2,250-year-old giant sequoia in California’s Yosemite Valley, effectively killing the tree. Called “Mother of the Forest,” the tree stood over 300 feet [91 meters] high — a feature that drove Gale to view the redwood as a commercial opportunity. After it was felled, “Mother of the Forest” became an “oddity” and was sent to Broadway in New York. The bark was later displayed at London’s Crystal Palace before a fire destroyed it in 1866.
A decade later, Abraham Lincoln took action to help other redwoods from meeting the same fate. An overlooked achievement of his presidency is the signing of one of the nation’s first conservation laws — The Yosemite Valley Grant Act, which transferred federal lands in the Yosemite Valley and nearby Mariposa Big Tree Grove to the state of California, “upon the express condition that the premises shall be held for public use, resort, and recreation.”
Lincoln never made it to California to see the big trees up close, but because he listened to nature, millions of people have witnessed the redwood’s towering beauty and will be able to “for all time.” Continue reading