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January 2: The Wilderness Preservation Movement

Lawrence Bush
January 2, 2017
Bob Marshall, the founder of the American wilderness preservation movement, was born in New York to the constitutional lawyer and Jewish activist Louis Marshall and his wife Florence on this date in 1901. A product of the Ethical Culture movement, Marshall was a committed nature writer (author of the bestselling 1933 book about Alaska, Arctic Village) and outdoorsman (he climbed all forty-six high peaks in the Adirondack Mountains) who served in the administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt as chief of forestry in the Bureau of Indian Affairs and head of recreation management in the Forest Service. In 1935, he cofounded the Wilderness Society, for which he provided much of the budget in its early years. The Society would help eventually win passage of the Wilderness Act of 1964, which defined “wilderness” within the U.S. and placed some nine million acres under federal management. Marshall, who held a Ph.D in plant physiology, was a civil libertarian, an anti-racist, and a socialist throughout his young life, which ended at age 38 from heart failure. “The sounds of the forest are entirely obliterated by the roar of the motor. The smell of pine needles and flowers and herbs and freshly turned dirt and all the other delicate odors of the forest are drowned in the stench of gasoline. The feeling of wind blowing in the face and of soft ground under foot are all lost.” --Bob Marshall

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.