1901 Theodore Roosevelt became president after the assassination of McKinley and promoted federal authority in conservation of natural resources, emphasizing efficient use rather than preservation. By 1909, the national forests increased from 42 million acres to 148 million, and 138 new forest areas were created in twenty-one states. He created four large wildlife refuges and 51 smaller bird sanctuaries. He established 18 national monuments, including 4 that later were converted into national parks (Grand Canyon, Olympic, Lassen Volcanic, and Petrified Forest).
1903 Pelican Island, Florida became the first wildlife refuge preserve in the United States.; President Roosevelt visited Yosemite with Muir, camped out in the snow on Glacier Point, shared ideas on nature with Roosevelt emphasizing animals and Muir emphasizing plants.
1905 California returned Yosemite Valley to federal control, with the help of Muir, Roosevelt, Southern Pacific's E. H. Harriman, Speaker Joe Cannon.
1905 William E. Dutcher led the national committee that formed the National Association of Audubon Societies by bringing together 36 state Audubon organizations, with a grant of $320,000 from Albert Wilcox, the name would change by 1940 to the National Audobon Society.
1906 Thoreau's collected works were published and caused a revival of interest in his early ideas and books.
1906 Congress passed the American Antiquities Act that authorized the President to establish national monuments for the preservation of "features of historic, prehistoric, and scientific interest." President Roosevelt established Devil's Tower National Monument, Wyoming, as the nation's first National Monument, and later in the year, he issued another executive proclamation that established the Petrified Forest National Monument in Arizona.
1907 William Kent donated 47 acres of 300-foot redwoods in Marin County to the federal government for Muir Woods National Monument, to prevent their loss as had happened to the sequoias on Mount Tamalpais. Muir Woods was a precedent for private initiatives to save threatened lands, such as the donation by George Dorr of Mount Desert near Bar Harbor Maine to create Acadia National Park by 1916.
1909 Congress voted $40,000 to create a wildlife preserve in Montana for bison.
1910 The largest oil spill in California history resulted from the Lakeview well in the San Joaquin Valley. A column of oil 20 feet in diameter and 200 feet high gushed 125,000 barrels a day for 18 months and released approximately 9.4 million barrels. Some of it was captured but there was extensive pollution of rivers and water table and agricultural land.
1911 Congress passed the Weeks Act to authorize the purchase of forest lands at the headwaters of navigable streams; the American Game Protective Association (AGPA) was founded in the Pinchot tradition of professional management, funded by gun and ammunition companies such as Winchester, and became the first sportsman-supported organization with a full-time professional staff, and would evolve into the American Wildlife Institute and by 1946 into the Wildlife Management Institute.
1912 the Weeks-McLean bill was introduced to expand the Lacey Act to include regulation of the hunting seasons for migratory birds, supported by the AGPA and bird-lover Henry Ford, passed as an agricultural bill rider in 1913, and began the rebuilding of game bird populations that head been declining due to over-hunting.
1913 Congress authorized the dam at Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park over the opposition of John Muir, who died in 1914.
1916 The National Park Service Act created the National Park Service and made wildlife protection a goal of the national park system.
1922 National Coast Anti-Pollution League formed in New Jersey to stop oil dumping; Amelia Maggia, a dial painter with U.S. Radium Corporation in Orange, New Jersey, became the first of the Radium Girls to die of radiation poisoning.
1923 Will H. Dilg founded the Izaak Walton League in 1922 to promote sport fishing, started the magazine Outdoor America in 1923, rose quickly to become the first conservation group with a mass membership, persuaded Congress with the help of Herbert Hoover to create a wildlife refuge on the upper Mississippi funded by an appropriation of $1.5 million.
1924 Five workers die at Standard Oil refinery making tetraethyl lead gasoline additive in unsafe conditions. Seven other workers had died previously at G.M. and DuPont plants. In 1925, five more tetraethyl lead workers die in a New Jersey DuPont plant. The Surgeon General investigated the problem but leaded gasoline stayed on the market until 1986. -- see link to tetraethyl lead
1929 The Norbeck-Anderson Act put 100 wildlife sanctuaries under federal protection.
1930 Rosalie Edge founded the Emergency Conservation Committee to reform the Audobon Association, but it grew as an independent radical conservation group of activists; she led the effort to save the hawks from hunters on Hawk Mountain in Pennsylvania, buying the mountain in 1933 and granting it to the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Association in 1938.
1933 Franklin D. Roosevelt expanded the conservation movement with his New Deal, putting the federal government behind reforestation, soil conservation, and agencies such as the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Tennessee Valley Authority. In 1935 Roosevelt authorized the creation of the Soil Conservation Service. In the Department of the Interior, Harold Ickes supported conservation programs, used PWA funds to buy the Yosemite sugar pines. The New Deal created 159 new wildlife refuges, double the acreage to 7.5 million acres. Robert Marshall as BIA director of forestry created 16 wilderness areas on Indian reservations. In 1936, University of Wisconsin professor Aldo Leopold and a young Rachel Carson began working in what became the United States Fish and Wildlife Service formed from the U.S. Biological Survey and the Bureau of Fisheries
1935 Robert Marshall led the formation of the Wilderness Society to lobby for the addition of more wilderness areas in the United States, to protect the Appalachian Trail in the Smoky Mountains.
1939 A air pollution disaster in St. Louis smog episode caused the city to switch from soft coal to hard coal and fuel oil to reduce the amount of industrial smoke. In 1941, St. Louis adopted first strict smoke control ordinance for a large city in the U. S.
1940 Congress created the Kings Canyon National Park 100 miles southeast of Yosemite, at the urging of the Sierra Club, to preserve it as a wilderness, not as a national forest that would have allowed construction of a highway; the Kings Canyon fight marked the rebirth of a new, dynamic Sierra Club led by the "Young Turks" David Brower and Richard Leonard and Ansel Adams, and club membership grew from 3000 to 6000 by 1948 to 12,000 by 1958
1943 President Roosevelt by executive order created the Jackson Hole National Monument in Wyoming, including a gift of 140,000 acres from John D. Rockefeller, Jr.
1946 U.S. Bureau of Land Management and Atomic Energy Commission are established
1947 Los Angeles Air Pollution Control District created as the first air pollution control bureau in the nation; Defenders of Wildlife founded; the Everglades National Park established Dec. 6.
1948 In Donora, Pennsylvania, 20 people were killed and another 14,000 made ill by factory smoke combined with a temperature inversion -- link to Donora with quote from Ruth Podems of the EPA: "The Donora tragedy was really the first time that public officials recognized the direct link between air pollution and public health, and it was the first time they mobilized to do anything about it."
1948 The Federal Water Pollution Control Act was passed to regulate waste disposal in navigable U.S. rivers and lakes and harbors, supported by House and Senate Public Works Committee efforts to lower water pollution
1952 David Brower became leader of the Sierra Club
1953 New York air pollution killed 170 -260 in November. London killer fogs in 1952 killed 3000-4000 people died. In 1954 Los Angeles shut down industry and schools in October due to air pollution. In 1955 Congress passed the Air Pollution Research Act.
1955 Wallace Stegner wrote This is Dinosaur for David Brower and the Sierra Club, published in only 3 months by a sympathetic Alfred Knopf, and sent to every member of Congress, with before and after pictures of the Hetch Hetchy valley, as part of a successful effort to stop the Echo Park dam on the Green River in the Dinosaur National Monument. 17 groups banded together to stop the dam and demonstrated the real power of the conservation forces. Due to this success, Howard Zanhiser drafted a Wilderness Act bill that was introduced in Congress two months after the Echo Park victory by Hubert Humphrey and John Saylor; the bill would prevent the federal bureaucracy from making arbitrary decisions. The bill was finally passed in 1964.
Hetch Hetchy before
Hetch Hetchy before
Hetch Hetchy after
Hetch Hetchy today
1956 The Water Pollution Control Act allocated federal money for water treatment plants. The proposed Echo Park Dam on the Upper Colorado River was defeated
1956 The word "smog" is coined by a scientist who measured the ingredients of pollution in the air over Los Angeles
1957 The first commercial nuclear reactor in the U. S. went on line in Shippingport, Pennsylvania.
1957 The physicist John Von Neumann published his book The Next Hundred Years and predicted a completely technological society: "If we are able in the decades ahead to avoid thermonuclear war ... we shall approach the time when the world will be completely industrialized.
And as we continue along this path we shall process ores of continually lower grade, until we finally sustain ourselves with materials obtained from the rocks of the earth's crust, the gases of the air, and the waters of the seas. By that time the mining industry as such ... will have been replaced by vast, integrated multipurpose chemical plants supplied by rock, air and seawater, from which will flow a multiplicity of products, ranging from fresh water to electric power, to liquid fuels and metals."
1959 California became the first state to set automotive emissions standards. Automakers opposed installation of a mandatory $7 device to control emissions, causing the Justice Department to file an anti-trust suit; the Minamata disease in Japan
1960 Congress passed the Federal Hazardous Substances Act that required labels on consumer products with hazardous substances.