A Heritage In Peril

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One of the more hopeful signs noted by conservationists is a bill—S.2435, introduced by Senator Frank E. Moss of Utah—that would redesignate the Department of the Interior as the Department of Natural Resources and consolidate under its control all the scattered agencies that presently govern national parks and forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife. Currently, forests come under the Department of Agriculture, wildlife under Interior, water-pollution control under Public Health—a compartmentalization that denies any relationship among, say, a watershed, a forest, and fish. Another piece of legislation, one that will supplement the effectiveness of President Johnson’s Wilderness Act, is the Endangered Species Bill recently passed by Congress; it will give the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife power to create inviolable refuges for native wildlife threatened with extinction.

These are concrete evidences that Americans are beginning to acknowledge that man is not divorced from but is very much a part of the web of life on this continent. If we are to control nature intelligently, we must learn how wildlife communities work and how they are interrelated. As Secretary Udall recently warned, “every species, being unique, may prove essential in current and future scientific research into the mystery of life itself. Each species is part of the food chain which supports other species. Each has a function to perform. Man … cannot escape the natural consequences of his actions … the sheer power of the population and technological revolutions may make man himself an endangered species in many parts of the earth.”