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Muir Woods vs. Hetch Hetchy

After posting earlier this morning on the subject of the 100th anniversary of Muir Woods, an irony occurred to me. As the SFGate article in my earlier post reminded us, there had been a plan to construct a reservoir where the Muir Woods monument is today.

It was close to this same time early in the 1900’s that John Muir led – and ultimately lost – the fight of his life against the plan to damn Yosemite’s Hetch Hetchy Valley (the more northern twin of Yosemite Valley) to ensure cheap water for San Francisco.

A century later it seems obvious that the decision to not dam Muir Woods but instead protect if for future generations was far wiser and more admirable than the decision to flood a treasure like Hetch Hetchy. Something tells me that there won’t be any proud public celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the flooding of Hetch Hetchy.

December 17, 2007 Posted by | Commentary | Comments Off on Muir Woods vs. Hetch Hetchy

Muir Woods 100th Anniversary

From an article in SFGate:

It is difficult to imagine a time when anyone would contemplate chopping down the magnificent redwoods in Muir Woods, let alone drowning the valley under hundreds of feet of water. Those scenarios were actually being contemplated 100 years ago, until one of the Bay Area’s first conservationists stepped forward.

U.S. Rep. William Kent, the heir to a Chicago meat-packing fortune, had purchased what was then the last stand of old-growth redwoods in the Bay Area. He donated it to the federal government just as a local water company was preparing to condemn it and build a dam.

This month marks the beginning of a yearlong celebration of the 100-year anniversary of the establishment of Muir Woods as a national monument.

Kent’s decision to thwart industrial progress is now considered one of the most courageous acts of land preservation in U.S. history, and it will play a major role in the events planned over the next year by the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy and the National Park Service.

Follow the link for the whole story.

This is an example of something that should be obvious to anyone who thinks about questions of land conservation in the US and elsewhere – the value to future generations of places like Muir Woods far exceeds the short-term value of alternative uses. We don’t need to look into the future and imagine that this might be true; we can look into the past and follow forward to the present to see plenty of evidence for this.

December 17, 2007 Posted by | Commentary | 1 Comment


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