1864 John Muir fled the Civil War draft and went into the woods north of lake Huron, where he saw the rare white orchid Calypso borealis in a patch of yellow moss and underwent an emotional awakening of the importance of nature: "I never before saw a plant so full of life; so perfectly spiritual, it seemed pure enough for the throne of the Creator. I felt as if I were in the presence of superior beings who loved me and beckoned me to come. I sat down beside them and wept for joy." (2) Muir had immigrated from Scotland to Wisconsin, but after the Civil War he wandered. When his eyesight was damaged from a factory machine accident in Indianapolis, he decided to move to California, fulfilling the prophecy of a psychic friend. He adopted a pantheistic faith in nature rather than a Christian faith in a manlike God. In 1868, he settled in Yosemite Valley, and began his long career as a founder of the wilderness preservation movement in America. He sought "to save humans for the wilderness and the wilderness from humans." (2) In 1871 he met Emerson visiting in Yosemite and offered to camp out with the old philosopher on a fern bed under the stars, but Emerson stayed in the primitive hotels. Muir was surprised how little Emerson knew of nature. The old philosopher saw nature in human terms, but Muir saw nature in its own terms, grand and eternal compared to man's temporal insignificance
George Marsh 1896
1864 Federal government ceded Yosemite Valley to the state of California for the purposes of "public use, resort, and recreation." (2)
1864 Posthumous publication of Henry David Thoreau's The Maine Woods, in which Thoreau called for the establishment of national preserves of virgin forest. -- online text from Thoreau Reader
1864 George Perkins Marsh published Man and Nature; or, Physical Geography as Modified by Human Action (revised in 1874 as The Earth as Modified by Human Action), "the first systematic analysis of humanity's destructive impact on the environment and a work which becomes (in Lewis Mumford's words) the fountain-head of the conservation movement." (1)
1866 American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals founded.
1866 The word "ecology" was coined by the German biologist Ernst Haeckel.
1869 Massachusetts State Board of Health founded. Ellen Swallow Richards, public health crusader, gathered thousands of water and food samples for the Board, resulting in the 1882 passage by Massachusetts of the first pure food laws.
1870 Lake Merritt, California, became the first wildlife sanctuary, the "Jewel of Oakland" perserving wildlife in a tidal slough after a dam was constructed to allow residential development. "Paralleling the increasing number of state-level measures for conserving supplies of fish and game throughout the nation, Congress passes An Act to prevent the Extermination of Fur-Bearing Animals in Alaska, the first of numerous Congressional and Presidential efforts in the coming decades to protect the economically valuable Pacific fur seals by regulating their hunting. " (1)
1871 - The Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories was formed in the Department of the Interior by Ferdinand V. Hayden to explore the Yellowstone region with photographer William Henry Jackson and artist Thomas Moran; "widely-distributed lithographs of Moran's paintings from this expedition help publicize Yellowstone in the East, while Jackson's 1870-1878 work with the Survey quickly becomes the most influential photographic representation of the Western landscape and its natural wonders." (1)
Tower Falls in Yellowstone 1875 by Moran
Pelican Creek in Yellowstone 1871 by Jackson
Upper Falls in Yellowstone 1871 by Jackson
Survey pack train in Yellowstone 1871 by Jackson
1871 U.S. Fish Commission formed to study decline of coastal fisheries.
1872 President Ulysses S. Grant signed the bill making Yellowstone the world's first official National Park.
1875 American Forestry Association founded.
1876 Appalachian Mountain Club founded by a group of professors and hikers in Boston, becoming the first permanent conservation organization in the U. S.
Carl Schurz 1877
1877 In 1877 Secretary of the Interior Carl Schurz proposed to halt the unchecked cutting of timber in America's forests. "A German emigrant familiar with the forestry practices of his homeland, Schurz issued a report in which he denounced lumbermen who were not merely stealing trees, but whole forests. But his plans to initiate scientific management of the nation's resources were thwarted by Congress, and two decades would pass before growing public protest gave reformers an opportunity to push for laws and policies that would change the course of our history." (1)
1878 John Wesley Powell wrote his Report on the Lands of the Arid Region describing the limits of the West's resources, particularly water, and of the need for careful planning and land stewardship to conserve those resources in the face of human settlement. "Powell was the founder, in 1879, of a permanent US Geological Survey.
John Wesley Powell
The ideas outlined in Powell's 1878 report were critical in shaping Wallace Stegner's view of the American West as a region defined largely by its aridity and requiring human cooperation rather than rugged individualism. Powell was also an early champion of the role of government science in providing knowledge for the public welfare. This idea, too, influenced Stegner's own thinking and is still relevant to conservation today. Stegner's biography of Powell, Beyond the Hundredth Meridian: John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the American West, was published in 1954." (1)
1885 New York created a 400-acre park on the American side of Niagara Falls, due to the efforts of Frederick Law Olmsted and Harvard's Charles Eliot Norton, but in the years that followed, power companies diverted the flow of the river for the production of electricity.
1886 The first Audubon Society was formed by George Bird Grinnell who had grown up in Audobon Park section of upper Manhattan that had been owned by the great naturalist John J. Audobon.
1890 - Robert Underwood Johnson published two essays by Muir on Yosemite in the Century magazine of August and September; Muir gained the support of Collis Huntington and the Southern Pacific Railroad to create park.
1891 President Harrison signed the bill creating Yosemite National Park, prohibiting sheep and lumbermen from the 1500 square miles of federally-protected parkland. Congress also passed the Forest Reserve Act that gave the President authority to reserve forest land for public use and protect it from private ownership. Harrison reserved 13 million acres and Grover Cleveland added another 13 new reserves by the end of his second term in 1897, bringing the total of federal forest reserve land to 21.4 million acres.
1892 Sierra Club was founded by John Muir, based on the Alpine clubs in Germany and the Appalachian Mountain Club in Boston, representing the beginning of a grass-roots environmental movement to save the forests.
1894 The New York state legislature declared the Adirondack state forest "forever wild."
1895 Wildlife Conservation International founded; American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society founded
1897 Congress passed the Forest Management Act to open forest reserves to logging, mining, and grazing interests; the forest movement became split between managed use and wilderness preservation.
1898 Gifford Pinchot became chief of the Division of Forestry in the USDA, representing the rise of scientific management and multiple use ideas; the Massachusetts Forestry Association was founded to lobby for a state park system and to stop commercial development of Mount Greylock, the state's highest peak. The Association is known today as the Environmental League of Massachusetts.
1899 Congress passed the Rivers and Harbors Act prohibiting the dumping of solid waste into the navigable waterways, but the measure was not enforced; Congress passed the bill establishing Mount Rainier National Park in the state of Washington.
1899 The Harriman Alaska Expedition explored coastal Alaska. "The Expedition is undertaken by a group of distinguished citizens, many of whom are actively involved in conservationism, including numerous scientists under the direction of C. Hart Merriam (Chief, U.S. Biological Survey), John Muir, John Burroughs, photographer Edward Curtis, forester Bernhard Fernow, George Bird Grinnell, and artists Frederick Dellenbaugh and Louis Agassiz Fuertes, funded and accompanied by railroad magnate Edward H. Harriman and members of his family. The Expedition produces a remarkable private Album of Chronicles and Souvenirs that captures much of the spirit and outlook which animated the conservation movement in this era, while the major results of the Expedition's scientific and ethnological investigations fill fifteen volumes published between 1901 and 1914." (1)
1900 Congress passed the Lacey Act, sponsored by Rep. John F. Lacey of Iowa, making it a federal crime to transport across state lines any game killed in violation of state laws, and enforced by the Bureau of Biological Survey in the USDA; the bill was due to the efforts of Mrs. Augustus Hemenway of Boston who led the formation of the Massachusetts Audobon Society in 1896 to save the heron habitats in the South, and was joined by other state Audobon societies to promote the federal law