How The Wilderness Was Won

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I was in charge of the Department of the Interior when Silent Spring appeared, and I well remember the reverberations it sent through the organization. Our responsibilities for resources put us in the forefront of a movement that was fueled first by Carson’s vision and then by the work of brilliant biologists like Paul Ehrlich, Barry Commoner, and E. O. Wilson. As we tried to confront the many challenges posed by the new age of ecology, our work led to, among other things, the program to protect endangered species and the end of backing for the American supersonic transport, with its sixty-mile carpet of sonic booms.

Only later, with hindsight, were many of us who had been caught up in the excitement of those times able to see them not as the dawn of a new way of looking at the world but rather as the final fruition of a conservation movement that had begun with the century. Indeed, the wise and always eloquent Aldo Leopold had provided a unifying theme decades earlier, when he wrote: “We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”

The Age of Ecology: The First Decade